For Immediate Release
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
"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
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.
Statement of Most Reverend John C. Wester
Bishop of Salt Lake City
Chairman, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration
Worksite Enforcement Raids
September 10, 2008
behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), I call upon
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.
the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, we have sought to work
collaboratively with DHS to ensure that raids are carried out
humanely. It seems to us that DHS has attempted to abide by several
humanitarian considerations in executing some of the workplace raids.
we believe that DHS has not gone far enough to ensure that human rights
protections are consistently applied in all enforcement actions.
over a year now, 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 for days, if not longer; immigrants
arrested have not been afforded the rights of due process; and local
communities, including legal permanent residents and U.S. citizens,
have been disrupted and dislocated. The sweeping nature of these
raids---which often involve hundreds of law enforcement personnel with
weapons---strike fear in immigrant communities and make it difficult
for those arrested to secure basic due process protections, including
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. Many of our local
parishes have helped respond to human needs generated by these
enforcement actions, providing counseling and legal services to parents
and children and basic needs assistance to immigrant communities.
strike immigrant communities unexpectedly, leaving the affected
immigrant families to cope in their aftermath. Husbands are separated
from their wives, and children are separated from their parents. Many
families never recover; others never reunite.
our government confronts the challenges of immigration, let it not
forget one of its core duties: protecting the family unit as the
fundamental institution upon which society and government itself
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. In this regard, we ask DHS to
immediately pledge to take the following actions to mitigate the human
costs of these raids:
DHS should refrain from enforcement activity in certain areas that
provide humanitarian relief-churches, hospitals, community health
centers, schools, food banks, and other community-based organizations
that provide charitable services;
Primary, not simply sole, caregivers should be released following an
enforcement action to care for their children. A variety of release
mechanisms, including parole in the public interest, release on
recognizance, bail, and alternatives to detention should be utilized
for this purpose:
DHS should facilitate access to meaningful legal representation for
arrested individuals so that they are aware of their legal rights and
Enforcement actions should be conducted in a manner which preserves
basic human dignity: immigrants who are working to survive and support
their families should not be treated like criminals.
Mechanisms should be instituted to allow family members to remain
together and to locate each other during and following an enforcement
action. Non-profit and community groups should be engaged in this
the effective and immediate implementation of these safeguards, we
believe that these enforcement raids should be abandoned.
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.
they begin their general election campaigns, we urge the two
presidential candidates to engage the issue of immigration in a humane,
thoughtful, and courageous manner.
urge our elected and appointed officials to turn away from
enforcement-only methods and direct their energy toward the adoption of
comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
STATEMENT OF BISHOP JAMES A. TAMAYO
BISHOP OF LAREDO, TX
would like to join Bishop Wester and my fellow bishops in calling upon
President Bush and the Department of Homeland Security to consider
ending the use of worksite enforcement raids as an immigration
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me say upfront that we have respect for our enforcement personnel, both
federal and local law enforcement personnel. They have a difficult
job and deserve our support.
must say, however, that worksite enforcement raids not only undermine
basic human dignity and family unity. They pit human beings against
each other in a violent and frightening way. The vast majority of
immigrants are not criminals-they are simply attempting to work and
support their families.
a bishop of a diocese located on the U.S.-Mexico border, I understand
fully the tension between law enforcement and migration. The Catholic
Church has always supported the right of a nation to protect its
sovereignty and to secure its borders. Such enforcement must be
tempered, however, in a way that balances the national interest with
the basic God-given rights and dignity of human beings. In the
church's view, these raids fail to meet this test.
a Latino bishop, I also must point out the impact these actions are
having on Latino communities. Many Latino families are of mixed legal
status and are fearful of being torn apart. Families are the backbone
of the Latino culture and Latino communities-as families are destroyed,
so are their communities. Persons of Hispanic heritage, including U.S.
citizens of Hispanic heritage, are not immune from the fear that these
policies do not solve our immigration concerns-we need a broader
approach. We must bring these persons out of the shadows, identify
them to the government, and give them legal status so they can
contribute fully their talents to our nation. We must adopt
comprehensive immigration reform and abandon these raids.
ORAL STATEMENT OF BISHOP JOHN C. WESTER
you for coming today. Today we would like to share with you a
statement on the ongoing worksite enforcement raids going on throughout
are in a dark period in our country on the issue of immigration. As
you know, in June of last year, comprehensive immigration reform
legislation died in Congress. Since that time, we have seen an
unprecedented emphasis on enforcement-only initiatives, both
legislative and administrative, designed to create an atmosphere of
fear in immigrant communities-essentially a policy of deportation by
attrition. Central to this policy is the use of worksite enforcement
raids, which have been implemented nationwide consistently over the
past fifteen months.
me be clear. We do not question the right and duty of our government
to enforce immigration laws. We do question whether worksite
enforcement raids, involving hundreds of law enforcement officials
using weapons, are effective and, most importantly, humane. It is our
view that the answer is no.
have witnessed first-hand the human costs of these enforcement actions,
and, indeed, many of our parishes have responded heroically to their
devastation on individuals and families. What these actions have
accomplished, sadly, are the separation of U.S.-citizen children from
their parents; the dislocation and disruption of immigrant communities:
and the victimization of U.S. permanent residents and citizens,
April of this year, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI called attention to
the issue of immigration, citing the need to protect families and to
address the issue regionally and internationally by examining the root
causes of why persons leave their homelands to find work. Our current
national immigration policy-the use of worksite enforcement raids and a
turning away from addressing the root causes and comprehensive
immigration reform---do just the opposite.
current policies do little to solve the problem of illegal immigration
to this country-they simply appear to do so, often at the cost of
family integrity and human dignity.
call upon President Bush and the Department of Homeland Security to
reconsider the use of these worksite enforcement raids and, without the
implementation of necessary human rights protections, to abandon them.
We ask them, and the country-including the presidential candidates-to
again turn their energies to building support for a comprehensive
overhaul of our broken immigration system.
by Donald Kerwin, Executive Director, Catholic Legal Immigration
Network, Inc. (CLINIC) at USCCB Press Conference on Worksite
Enforcement: September 10, 2008
Catholic Church has consistently recognized the authority and
responsibility of a sovereign state to regulate immigration in service
to the common good. For this reason, the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops (USCCB) has never supported an open borders policy. Instead,
it has strongly supported the Bush Administration's call for
comprehensive immigration reform.
his first inaugural address, President Bush spoke of his vision of a
nation built on a commitment to shared values and ideals. The
President has stressed the need to strengthen and honor immigrant
families and to match self-sacrificing workers with willing employers.
He has argued that "you cannot secure the border without having all the
elements of a comprehensive plan in place." (http://www.whitehouse.gov/
The Bush Administration still supports a comprehensive approach to
immigration reform that upholds the rule of law, that reforms our legal
immigration system, and that allows most undocumented persons to earn
the right to remain. Yet since the collapse of immigration reform
legislation last summer, the Department of Homeland Security has
pursued the kind of enforcement-only approach that the President has
recognized cannot possibly work.
immigration enforcement has been the trend for many years. The
Department of Homeland Security's immigration enforcement budget will
grow from $9.7 to $15 billion between 2004 and 2009. More border
fencing is being built; 338 miles of fencing have already been
erected. Thousands of additional Border Patrol agents are being added
to the 17,000 already in place. Under a growing employee verification
program, 80,000 employers now run the social security numbers of
prospective employees through a government database. Last year, DHS
teams arrested 30,000 people as part of an expanding initiative to
arrest persons with outstanding removal orders. Numerous states and
localities have adopted measures that attempt to deny housing and work
to undocumented people. The Department of Homeland Security now
detains 32,000 people per night, most of them in 310 local prisons.
the last two years, raids have been the most visible manifestation of
the Administration's focus on enforcement. Several features have
characterized these raids: (1) their frequency; (2) their immensity;
(3) the criminal prosecution of many of those arrested; and (4) their
devastating impact on families and communities. In FY 2004, 685 people
were arrested in immigration raids, and 160 people were criminally
charged. Already this year, 3,900 have been arrested and more than
1,000 have been criminally charged. In a May 2008 raid at a
meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, 305 of the 389 people arrested
were criminally charged. Within a week, those arrested were pressured
to accept plea agreements or to face more serious criminal charges.
we speak today, Catholic parishes and Catholic Charities agencies
throughout the nation are attempting to provide basic survival services
- rent, food, transportation, clothes, diapers, prescriptions, legal
assistance, help with locating loved ones - for the families of persons
arrested. Catholic Charities in Fall River, Massachusetts is tending
to the needs of immigrant families 16 months after a raid at a textile
manufacturing facility in New Bedford. St. Bridget's parish in
Postville, Iowa has served hundreds of community members since the
meatpacking plant raid. Catholic Charities of Jackson, Mississippi,
Immaculate Conception parish in Laurel, Mississippi, and Sacred Heart
parish in Hattiesburg, Mississippi are now responding to the aftermath
of the arrest of 595 immigrants just two weeks ago at an electric
transformer manufacturing facility in Laurel, Mississippi. More than
75 percent of the Catholic agencies that attended a workshop on raids
at our national Catholic gathering on immigration in July and August of
this year have been involved in raids-response work.
of those arrested have been hard-working, self-sacrificing,
family-oriented people. One report estimates that at least half of
the adults arrested have U.S. citizen children. They are not
criminals. They present no national security risk. They provide vivid
evidence of the need for an approach to this challenge that is both
effective and humane. Thank you.
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The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) is a 501(c) (3)
organization that provides a range of legal and non-legal support
services to 173 member agencies comprised mainly of Catholic
diocesan immigration programs. Our member agencies serve
low-income immigrants seeking family reunification, citizenship, and
protection from persecution and violence.