September 19, 2008

Concerned Over Effects on Families, Communities, Bishops Urge President Bush, Homeland Security to Drop Raids

WASHINGTON— Speaking on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Bishop John C. Wester, chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Migration, urged the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and President Bush to reexamine the use of worksite enforcement raids as an immigration enforcement tool.

“The humanitarian costs of these raids are immeasurable and unacceptable in a civilized society,” Bishop Wester said. “While we do not question the right and duty of our government to enforce the law, we do question whether worksite enforcement raids are the most effective and humane method for performing this duty, particularly as they are presently being implemented.”

The statement, released September 10, addresses the increase in worksite enforcement raids across the nation over the last year, in which DHS has targeted employers who hire unauthorized workers by using force to enter worksites and arrest immigrant workers. During the process of these raids, U.S. citizen children have been separated from their parents, immigrants arrested have not been afforded the rights of due process, and local communities, especially relatives including legal permanent residents and U.S. citizens, have been left to cope with the aftermath.

“We have witnessed first-hand the suffering of immigrant families and are gravely concerned about the collateral human consequences of immigration enforcement raids on the family unit,” say the bishops in the statement. “Many families never recover; others never reunite.”

In the absence of comprehensive reform, the U.S. Catholic Bishops have sought to work collaboratively with DHS to ensure humanitarian considerations in executing workplace raids. The statement calls for refraining from enforcement activity in certain areas that provide humanitarian relief such as churches, hospitals, community health centers, schools, food banks, and other charitable services. It also calls for the release of caregivers who have dependents offering a variety of release mechanisms available under the law; access to legal representation; respect for basic human dignity; and, mechanisms for families to remain together and locate each other following an enforcement raid. It also states that non-profit and community groups should be engaged in this effort.

“Absent the effective implementation of these safeguards, we believe that these enforcement raids should be abandoned,” the statement reads, adding that “[i]mmigration enforcement raids demonstrate politically the ability of the government to enforce the law. They do little, however, to solve the broader challenge of illegal immigration. They also reveal, sadly, the failure of a seriously flawed immigration system, which, as we have consistently stated, requires comprehensive reform.”

The bishops urged the two presidential candidates “to engage the issue of immigration in a humane, thoughtful, and courageous manner” and to turn away from enforcement-only methods.

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