Catholic Leader Decries Opening of Family Detention Center in Texas

(Washington, D.C.) — Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, decried the opening of a 2,400-bed detention center in Dilley, Texas, constructed to house, among others, families fleeing persecution in Central America.

The detention center, operated by a private, for-profit group, was inaugurated December 15.

“It is inhumane to house young mothers with children in restrictive detention facilities, as if they are criminals,” said Bishop Elizondo December 16.

“Already traumatized from their journey, these families are very vulnerable and need care and support, not further emotional and psychological harm.” Studies have shown that detention has a harmful psychological impact on children.

Bishop Elizondo added that the Obama administration’s pursuit of a deterrence policy– including detention and interdiction– against children and families fleeing violence undermines basic human rights.

“Many of these families are fleeing persecution and should be afforded the full benefit of domestic and international law,” Bishop Elizondo said. “As we saw in the case of Artesia, detention denies mothers and children with valid legal claims meaningful access to due process, including legal representation.”

A temporary detention facility in Artesia, New Mexico, housing families was recently closed down, in part, because of strong opposition to due process violations and conditions there, especially for children. The average age of children detained in Artesia was six and a half years old.

Bishop Elizondo added that humane alternatives to detention exist, particularly community- based alternatives based on a case management model.

“Past community-based programs have shown that vulnerable groups such as families can be placed in a community setting and still appear at their immigration hearings, provided they are

given the proper support,” Bishop Elizondo said. “The government should explore this humane alternative and not cause further harm to these families, particularly children.”


Faith groups urge U.S. to protect child refugees

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Jesuit Conference President Fr. Thomas Smolich S.J., far right, a member of the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA Board of Directors, participated in a discussion July 24 with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, left,  and other Democratic congressional representatives on how the U.S. should respond to the humanitarian situation in Central America. Mary Small, back right, JRS/USA Assistant Director for Policy and Shaina Aber, back left, Policy Director for the National Advocacy Office at the Jesuit Conference, also took part in the meeting.

On the day of the meeting, more than 300 faith-based organizations delivered a letter to President Barack Obama and Members of Congress urging protection, care and legal counsel for the thousands of Central American children who have fled escalating violence, conflict and exploitation in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Aber said the Conference has been working on human rights issues and tracking issues of migration and violence in Central America, particularly in Honduras, for the past three years. They began to notice the migrants arriving at shelters run by the Jesuits in Mexico were getting younger. “They weren’t looking for economic opportunity but for safer lives outside of gang-ridden neighborhoods,” Aber said.

“The rhetoric we’ve been hearing recently from Congress and the administration has been disturbing,” said Aber. “They are talking about cutting down on protections the children are currently due under the law … at a time when we think Congress should be looking at what the driving factors are that are leading kids to have to flee their communities. They should be looking for ways in which we can protect these children in the tradition we have welcomed and protected other refugees in the past.”

The Jesuit Conference and Jesuit Refugee Service were two of the organizations that led the efforts in drafting the letter, which was signed by 40 national faith organizations and 269 regional and local groups from 42 states.

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About Us: Jesuit Refugee Service

The mission of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA is to accompany, serve and advocate for the rights of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, witnessing to God’s presence in vulnerable and often forgotten people driven from their homes by conflict, natural disaster, economic injustice, or violation of their human rights.

JRS/USA is one of 10 geographic regions of Jesuit Refugee Service, an international Catholic organization sponsored by the Society of Jesus.

In coordination with the JRS International Office in Rome, JRS/USA provides advocacy, financial and human resources for JRS regions throughout the world.

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Europe: states violate the basic rights of migrants

Research on migrants identified destitute as a consequence of exclusionary state policies

(Brussels) March 28, 2011 – Throughout Europe thousands of migrants are deprived access to education, healthcare, housing and social welfare services, and employment opportunities. Tuesday Jesuit Refugee Service will present first-hand evidence of how government policies directly contribute to the destitution of migrants on the continent.

The briefing, held at Les Ateliers des Tanneurs, Brussels at 09:10, will feature three key speakers:

· Mr Simon Tesfamichael, an Eritrean refugee, will speak about his experiences of destitution in Italy.

· Ms Louise Zanré, JRS UK director, will describe how state policies force migrants into destitution, based on her daily contact with destitute migrants in London.

· Mr Stefan Kessler, JRS Europe senior policy and advocacy officer, will make policy recommendations based on the 2010 report, Living in Limbo, on migrant destitution in 13 European countries.

“The current migrant crisis in Lampedusa is an indicator of Europe’s larger inability to uphold the most basic rights of migrants. If EU states are unable to protect migrant’s rights in the short term, they risk fostering destitution in the long run. Destitution is a downward spiral of human indignity. Once migrants become stuck, it’s difficult and expensive to get them out of this situation”, says Mr Kessler.
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Judge strikes down parts of Arizona’s SB 1070

(Washington, D.C.) July 28, 2010 – Judge Susan Bolton of the U.S. District Court for Arizona today issued an injunction preventing the most egregious sections of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law – SB 1070 – from going into effect tomorrow. The order covers the sections criminalizing immigrants for failing to carry documents with them at all times and requiring police to ask anyone for papers proving citizenship or legal status during traffic stops or housing inspections if they had a “reasonable suspicion” the person was undocumented.

“At the Kino Border Initiative’s Center for Deported Migrants in Nogales, Sonora, we are seeing increasing numbers of repatriated migrants each day. Hundreds of people come to us with blistered feet and with broken spirits,” said Fr. Sean Carroll, S.J., of the Kino Border Initiative.

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Leahy, Levin co-sponsor Refugee Protection Action of 2010

WASHINGTON (Monday, March 15, 2010) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Monday introduced legislation to strengthen the country’s commitment to protecting refugees fleeing persecution or torture.  The Refugee Protection Action of 2010 will help to improve protections for refugees and asylum seekers with bona fide claims.  The legislation is cosponsored by Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.).

The introduction of the Refugee Protection Act also commemorates the 30th anniversary of the historic Refugee Act of 1980, which was enacted to fulfill the country’s obligations under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.  The Leahy-authored legislation introduced Monday addresses shortfalls in current law that place unnecessary and harmful barriers before refugees with legitimate asylum claims, making it more difficult for them to find safe harbor in the United States.

“It is time to renew America’s commitment to the Refugee Convention, and to bring our law back into compliance with the Convention’s promise of protection,” said Leahy.

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