Bishop, advocates oppose sanctuary cities bill

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – A bill that would keep agencies, cities and college campuses in Mississippi from offering sanctuary to unauthorized immigrants would not keep communities safe and goes against the Christian tenet of caring for those in need, said Bishop Joseph Kopacz of Jackson.
He issued a statement Feb. 15 opposing S.B. 2710, also known as the “sanctuary cities” bill, which passed the state Senate in a 32-16 vote Feb. 9. The bill goes to the state House for consideration.
The measure would prohibit cities and institutions of higher learning from declaring themselves sanctuary cities. There are currently no sanctuary cities in the state, although the city of Jackson proposed such a declaration last year.
“As Christians we are called to welcome the stranger and care for those in need. As citizens, we are called to keep our communities strong and safe. We feel that the so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ bill being debated right now in the Mississippi Legislature damages both of those efforts,” wrote Bishop Kopacz.
In a sanctuary city, local law enforcement would not be forced to act as federal immigration agents, like the officers of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In fact, they would be prohibited from asking a person they detained about his or her immigration status. S.B. 2710 would prohibit cities from enacting sanctuary policies.
The bill’s opening statement says it would apply to entities such as “a state agency, department, political subdivision of this state, county, municipality, university, college, community college or junior college, or any agent, employee or officer thereof.”
Immigrant advocates said the bill raises several concerns.
Amelia McGowan, an immigration attorney for the Catholic Charities Migrant Resource Center based in Jackson, said the vague language, especially in relation to schools, opens up a number of potential problems.
“The first provision is potentially extremely dangerous. It could allow any state official, or anyone working for the state government to report any individual to federal immigration authorities. In other words, it prevents the state and local agencies from prohibiting its employees from reporting an individual to ICE,” said McGowan in an email to the Mississippi Catholic, newspaper of the Jackson Diocese.
“That means, undocumented – or suspected undocumented – individuals seeking services in any state or local agency – courts, police protection, K-12 education, higher education, state hospital, state health and mental health agencies – could be reported to ICE by a disgruntled employee,” McGowan explained.
It also means an agency “could not prohibit its employees from doing so,” she continued. “Now, presumably that person may be protected in some cases by privacy laws, but I am afraid that this provision would prevent individuals from seeking state services, which include reporting violent crimes to the police.”
According to Christy Williams, an attorney at the headquarters of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, known as CLINIC, in Silver Spring, Maryland, the provision also opens up municipalities to potential liability. A school employee who discloses a student’s immigration information could be violating federal privacy laws and the school could be held liable.
If any officer reports a person they suspect is in the country without legal permission but that person turns out to have a valid legal status, the local agency can be sued. CLINIC highlighted one example from Allentown, Pennsylvania, when officers arrested a U.S. citizen for alleged drug crimes.
“He had both his driver’s license and Social Security card with him at the time of the arrest and was eventually found innocent,” according to a CLINIC document about sanctuary cities. “During his time in custody, the police called ICE based on the presumption that, because of his race, he was undocumented.
“Despite being documented, the citizen was held for three days after posting bail based on an ICE detainer. He was released only after an ICE agent interrogated him and confirmed his citizenship. The U.S. citizen sued local and county officials in 3rd District Federal Court, leading to verdicts in his favor and settlement costs totaling nearly $150,000,” the document said.
When a local agency reports someone to ICE, the federal agents may ask the local agency to detain the suspect. The local agency has to absorb the cost of housing, feeding and caring for the person until ICE can process the case. That money is rarely reimbursed to state and local agencies.
Critics of the Mississippi bill say that because it is vague, it also could erode the relationship first responders have with their communities. If immigrants, even those in the country legally, believe police officers, medical personnel or firefighters are going to report them to immigration officials, they may hesitate to call for much-needed help.
McGowan said she thinks if the bill becomes law, it “would have a chilling effect on individuals seeking state services” such as medical care, mental health care and police protection,” and would negatively affect immigrants’ educational opportunities. She also thinks it would subject victims of violent crimes and/or abuse “to greater danger.”
President Donald Trump has pledged to strip federal funds from jurisdictions that declare themselves “sanctuary cities.”
“We urge lawmakers and advocates to oppose S.B. 2710,” Bishop Kopacz said in his statement. “We will, as a Catholic community, continue to work with immigrants and refugees – welcoming their contributions to our community and culture – even as we pray for a just solution to the challenges of immigration and security.”
(Editor’s note: the full text of the statement is available here.)

Advocates stress that U.S. has moral obligation to welcome refugees

By Dennis Sadowski
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Leaders from six organizations want Americans and President Donald Trump to understand that refugees, especially those from war-torn Middle Eastern countries, are average people with careers, comfortable homes and loving families rather than see them as a monolithic threat to the United States.
Their appeal during a Feb. 1 news conference at Casa Italiana at Holy Rosary Church in Washington came as refugees continued to be denied entry into the U.S. nearly a week after Trump ordered a 120-day suspension of the U.S. refugee resettlement program.
Officials of Catholic Charities USA, Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., Catholic Relief Services, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and the Center for Migration Studies called on Trump to rescind his presidential memorandum implementing the suspension, saying the country has a moral obligation to welcome people fleeing for their lives.
They called the world’s refugee crisis a pro-life issue.
“One of the issues for many of us in this country is that we can’t imagine that the refugee is a person like ourselves, that many of the people that are now caught in camps or horrible situations are people like ourselves who woke up one morning and learned that everything they had was destroyed,” said Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA.
“We all have to stop objectifying them. These are human beings like you and I,” she said, recalling the people in northern Iraq she recently contacted via online video communications.
Other leaders cited the country’s long history of welcoming refugees as well as church teaching on welcoming the stranger. They said the U.S. should not relinquish its role as a moral leader in refugee resettlement, especially for those who have been cleared or are awaiting final approval to enter the country. Any delay in their arrival puts them at greater threat, the leaders said.
“These refugees are victims of the same violence that we are trying to protect ourselves from,” said Jill Marie Gerschutz-Bell, senor legislative specialist at Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency. “And yet it is American principles, of course, that we are trying to protect. So a disproportionate security response leaves us wondering: What does it mean to be American? What does it mean to be Catholic?”
Welcoming refugees can be an act that not only protects them but also protects U.S. security, said Don Kerwin, executive director of the Center for Migration Studies in New York City. “It’s not really a balance. Refugee protection actually advances and furthers security,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean that there doesn’t have to be careful screening and that there’s responsibilities for improving that screening based on intelligence,” Kerwin added. “Those need to be implemented. But the fact is we have a very, very secure screening process for refugees. It’s more secure than any other admission process for any other category of immigrants.”
Trump’s memorandum, one of three governing immigration issues during the first week of his administration, suspends the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days and bans entry of all citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries – Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia – for 90 days. It also establishes religious criteria for refugees, proposing to give priority to religious minorities over others who may have equally compelling refugee claims.
The resettlement program’s suspension also will affect about 700 employees of Catholic Charities agencies nationwide, with layoffs expected for nearly all of the workers because the stream of refugees has ended, said Sister Markham.
“We absolutely depend on the partnership between public and private funding to support these programs,” she explained. “We don’t have the resources to carry them without that partnership. Four months carrying 700 employees with no income is not feasible for a charitable organization like Catholic Charities.”
The bishops’ MRS department in conjunction with diocesan Catholic Charities agencies resettled about 23,000 of the nearly 85,000 refugees admitted into the U.S. in fiscal year 2016. The majority of them were women and children, said William Canny, MRS executive director.

People attend a Feb. 1 vigil sponsored by the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition in Nashville in response to President Donald Trump's Jan. 27 executive order suspending the entry of refugees into the United States for 120 days. (CNS photo/Theresa Laurence, Tennessee Register)

People attend a Feb. 1 vigil sponsored by the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition in Nashville in response to President Donald Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order suspending the entry of refugees into the United States for 120 days. (CNS photo/Theresa Laurence, Tennessee Register)

The number of refugees resettled is a small proportion of the 21 million refugees tallied worldwide by the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Canny noted.
He also expressed concern that the resettlement program had enjoyed bipartisan support from Congress and Democratic and Republican White Houses over the years, but that “in the last year or so we saw a breakdown” in such backing.
Trump’s other executive memoranda – one calling for a surge in immigrant detention and deportation and the other setting the stage to build a multibillion dollar 2,000 mile wall along the U.S.-Mexico border – drew criticism from Jean Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.
An increase in enforcement by federal and local officials “threatens due process and makes our communities and their residents, American and foreign-born, less safe,” Atkinson said. “We’re already seeing men and women afraid to go out into their communities, to go to work, to take their children to school to take them to medical appointments.”
While the organizational leaders pledged to advocate for refugees as long as needed, they also invited Catholics to voice their objection to the president’s actions.
J. Kevin Appleby, senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies, said if Catholics mobilized, they could influence the president to change his mind.
“This is a really important moment for Catholics in our country,” he said. “The church is in a particular position to influence this administration I think in positive ways on these issue. Catholics voted for President Trump for various reasons, so they have the ability to convince the administration that they are on the wrong course.”

Bishops mention immigration policy in statement

By Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Urging Americans to look at their families for stories of immigration, the president and vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called attention to the hardships and contributions of immigrants to American society as the U.S. church prepared to observe National Migration Week.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles also said in a Jan. 6 statement that the week is “an opportunity to embrace the important work of continuing to secure the border, to welcome the stranger and serve the most vulnerable” as components of “a humane immigration policy.”
“This year, we are invited to create a culture of encounter where citizens old and new, alongside immigrants recent and long-standing, can share with one another their hopes for a better life,” said the statement marking the observance, which began 25 years ago as a way to reflect on how immigrants and refugees have contributed to the church. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph knew life as refugees, so let us also begin this encounter within our very own families.”
The prelates said migration is “an act of great hope” and those who are forced leave their homelands “suffer devastating family separation and most often face dire economic conditions to the point they cannot maintain a very basic level of living.”
War and persecution force refugees to leave their homelands, they said. They urged Catholics to seek stories from their families about how their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents left their homelands.

A woman holds a child's hand as they arrive for a rally in support of immigrants' rights in New York City Dec. 18, 2016. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles called attention in a Jan. 6 statement the hardships and contributions of immigrants to American society as the U.S. church prepared to observe National Migration Week. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz) See USCCB-MIGRATION-HOPE Jan. 6, 2017.

A woman holds a child’s hand as they arrive for a rally in support of immigrants’ rights in New York City Dec. 18, 2016. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles called attention in a Jan. 6 statement the hardships and contributions of immigrants to American society as the U.S. church prepared to observe National Migration Week. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz) See USCCB-MIGRATION-HOPE Jan. 6, 2017.

“Let us remind ourselves of those moments when our loved ones were forced to seek the mercy of others in a new land,” the statement said.
Though the United States has a great national heritage of welcoming the stranger, “fear and intolerance have occasionally tested that heritage,” the statement said, adding that “whether immigrating from Ireland, Italy or countless other countries, previous generations faced bigotry. Thanks be to God, our nation grew beyond those divisions to find strength in unity and inclusion.”

USCCB forms working group to monitor needs of migrants, refugees

By Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) – The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is establishing a working group charged with developing spiritual, pastoral and policy advocacy support for immigrants and refugees.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, has named members of the working group, with the mandate of closely following developments related to immigrants and refugees in the United States. The USCCB Public Affairs Office announced formation of the group Dec. 16.
Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB vice president, will chair the group. Members include the chairmen of USCCB committees and subcommittees involved in immigration concerns: Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, Committee on Migration; Auxiliary Bishop Nelson J. Perez of Rockville Centre, New York, Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Committee on Domestic Social Development; Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Washington, Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants; and Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, Committee on International Justice and Peace.
The groundwork for the working group was set during the bishops’ annual fall general assembly in Baltimore when several bishops suggested the conference closely monitor actions by the federal government that affect immigrants and refugees.
In announcing the working group, the Public Affairs Office said the bishops and USCCB staff will be ready to respond to any executive orders and legislation that the new Congress and President-elect Donald J. Trump may introduce.

People in Tijuana, Mexico, stand next to a wall separating Mexico and the United States Dec. 10. (CNS photo/Jorge Duenes, Reuters) See USCCB-WORKING-GROUP-MIGRANTS Dec. 16, 2016.

People in Tijuana, Mexico, stand next to a wall separating Mexico and the United States Dec. 10. (CNS photo/Jorge Duenes, Reuters) See USCCB-WORKING-GROUP-MIGRANTS Dec. 16, 2016.

The working group will inform the efforts of individual bishops in their pastoral responses to immigrants and refugees and recommend appropriate additional efforts as needed, such as the recent day of prayer on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago outlined some of the responsibilities of the working group in a column in the Dec. 11 issue of the Catholic New World, Chicago’s archdiocesan newspaper.
He said the group will look at what is being done pastorally in U.S. dioceses and will share best practices with bishops.
“Particular attention will be given to addressing the economic struggles, alienation, fear and exclusion many feel, along with the resistance to the church’s message regarding migrants and refugees,” Cardinal Cupich wrote. “Emphasis will be given to ways we can build bridges between various segments of society.”
The working group also will spearhead advocacy, building on existing USCCB efforts, and engage constructively with the incoming administration and Congress, the cardinal said.
The formation of the new entity, which Archbishop Gomez planned to convene weekly, “will send a message to those who live in fear that the Catholic bishops of the United States stand with them, pray with them, offer pastoral support and speak prophetically in defense of their human dignity,” Cardinal Cupich wrote.
He added that the Chicago Archdiocese will continue to “walk with all who, given our broken immigration system, live in the shadows. We will advocate for them as well as for refugees seeking a better life for their families.”
National Migration Week is Jan. 8-14.

Actividades de la Semana Nacional de Migración

Durante casi medio siglo, la Iglesia Católica en los Estados Unidos ha celebrado la national-migration-week-2017-poster-470x609-cSemana Nacional de Migración, la cual es una oportunidad para la Iglesia a reflexionar sobre las circunstancias que enfrentan los migrantes, incluidos los inmigrantes, los refugiados, los niños y las víctimas y sobrevivientes de la trata de personas.
El tema de la Semana Nacional de Migración 2017, que se celebrará del 8 al 14 de enero, enfoca la atención al llamado del Papa Francisco ‘para crear una cultura de encuentro, y que al hacerlo miremos más allá de nuestras propias necesidades y deseos y veamos las de los que nos rodean. En la Diócesis de Jackson, las actividades durante la semana son las siguientes:
El domingo 8 de enero se inaugurará  la Semana Nacional de Migración con la presentación del video “Los invicibles” en la Parroquia St. James en Tupelo de 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.  El martes 10 de enero se ofrecerá un taller de inmigración y consultas legales en la Parroquia St. Matthew en Ripley de 6 – 8 p.m. La abogada de inmigración, Amelia McGowan, directora del Centro de Soporte Migratorio de Caridades Católicas en Jackson facilitará el taller y las consultas.
El miércoles 11 de enero las parroquias dedicarán la celebración eucarística a la Semana Nacional de Migración. El jueves 12 de enero, de 6 – 8 p.m. en la Parroquia St. James en Corinth se ofrecerá nuevamente el taller de inmigración y consultas legales los cuales serán facilitados por Amelia McGowan.
Para el viernes 13 de enero están organizando una noche de expresiones culturales de 6 a 8 p.m. El lugar será anunciado previamente. Para información llamar al 662-682-9992.
La clasura de la semana de actividades se realizará el sábado 14 de enero con una presentación bilingüe en la Parroquia St. James en Tupelo de 3 a 4:30 p.m. por parte de la Hermana Guadalupana del Espíritu Santo, Gabriela Rámirez, de la oficina de Caridades Católicas de la Diócesis de Birmingham, Alabama.

Charities’ office offers National Migration Week celebrations

By Amelia McGowan
VARDAMAN – The Northeast Mississippi office of Catholic Charities of Jackson is preparing for its third annual National Migration Week celebration, “Creating a Culture of Encounter,” which will take place in locations throughout northeastern Mississippi during Jan. 8-14, 2017. The events will include Eucharistic celebrations, cultural expressions and legal workshops conducted by Catholic Charities’ Migrant Support Center.
With this celebration, the Diocese of Jackson joins dioceses throughout the country in reflecting upon the circumstances confronting migrants in the country, including immigrants, refugees, children and victims and survivors of violent crimes and human trafficking.  The theme for National Migration Week 2017 draws attention to Pope Francis’ call to create a culture of encounter, and in doing so to look beyond our own needs and wants to those of others around us.
In the homily given at his first Pentecost as pope, he emphasized the importance of encounter in the Christian faith: “For me this word is very important. Encounter with others. Why? Because faith is an encounter with Jesus, and we must do what Jesus does: encounter others.”
While Mississippi’s immigrant population is not as large as more populous states, it is growing rapidly. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Mississippi’s foreign-born population rose from 0.8 percent of the total statewide population in 1990, to 1.4 percent in 2000, and to 2.1 percent in 2013.
The kickoff for National Migration Week is Sunday, January 8, at Tupelo St. James with a bilingual screening of the film “The Invisibles” from 2:30-4:30 p.m.
On Tuesday, Jan. 10, I will provide an immigration workshop and legal consultations at Ripley St. Matthew Parish from 6 – 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11, will feature Eucharistic celebrations commemorating National Migration Week throughout the area. I will provide a second immigration workshop at Corinth St. James Parish on Thursday, Jan. 12, from 6 – 8 p.m.
The week concludes with a Night of Cultural Expression on Friday, Jan. 13, from 6 – 8 p.m. at a location to be determined, and a closing ceremony at St. James Parish on Saturday, Jan. 14, which will feature Sister Gabriela Ramirez from Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Birmingham, Ala., from 3 – 4:30 p.m.
All are welcome to join in the National Migration Week festivities as we celebrate the diversity of our towns and parishes. For more information about the week’s events call 662-682-9992.

(Amelia McGowan is the Program Director and an Immigration Attorney for Catholic Charities’ Migrant Support Center.)

National Migration Week – set for January – honors most vulnerable

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Children are the most vulnerable and hardest hit among the world’s migrants and require special protection, Pope Francis said.
“Children are the first among those to pay the heavy toll of emigration, almost always caused by violence, poverty, environmental conditions, as well as the negative aspects of globalization,” he said.
“The unrestrained competition for quick and easy profit brings with it the cultivation of perverse scourges such as child trafficking, the exploitation and abuse of minors and, generally, the depriving of rights intrinsic to childhood as sanctioned by the International Convention on the Rights of the Child,” he said.
The pope made the comments in a message on the theme of “Child Migrants, the Vulnerable and the Voiceless” for the World Day for Migrants and Refugees 2017; the text was released at the Vatican Oct. 13.

The World Day for Migrants and Refugees is observed Jan. 15. In the United States, National Migration Week will be celebrated Jan. 8-14. Click here for a listing of events celebrating the week in the Diocese of Jackson. migration week
In his message, the pope called for greater protection and integration of immigrants and refugees who are minors, especially those who are unaccompanied.
Minors are especially fragile, vulnerable and often invisible and voiceless – unable to claim or unaware of their rights and needs, he said.

A child sits on railroad tracks near a makeshift camp for migrants in late March at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of in Idomeni, Greece. Children are the most vulnerable and hardest hit among the world's migrants and require special protection, Pope Francis said. (CNS photo/Armando Babani, EPA) See POPE-MIGRANTS-MESSAGE Oct. 13, 2016.

A child sits on railroad tracks near a makeshift camp for migrants in late March at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of in Idomeni, Greece. Children are the most vulnerable and hardest hit among the world’s migrants and require special protection, Pope Francis said. (CNS photo/Armando Babani, EPA) See POPE-MIGRANTS-MESSAGE Oct. 13, 2016.

In particular, they have “the right to a healthy and secure family environment, where a child can grow under the guidance and example of a father and a mother; then there is the right and duty to receive adequate education, primarily in the family and also in the school,” the pope said. Unfortunately, “in many areas of the world, reading, writing and the most basic arithmetic is still the privilege of only a few.”
“Children, furthermore, have the right to recreation,” he added. “In a word, they have the right to be children.”
Christians must offer a dignified welcome to migrants because every human being is precious and “more important than things,” the pope said. “The worth of an institution is measured by the way it treats the life and dignity of human beings, particularly when they are vulnerable, as in the case of child migrants.”
He urged long-term solutions be found to tackle the root causes of migration such as war, human rights violations, corruption, poverty, environmental injustice and natural disasters.
In so many of these scenarios, Pope Francis said, “children are the first to suffer, at times suffering torture and other physical violence, in addition to moral and psychological aggression, which almost always leave indelible scars.”
Among the many factors that make migrants, especially children, more vulnerable, and need to be addressed are: poverty; limited access to the means to survive; “unrealistic expectations generated by the media”; poor literacy; and ignorance about the law, culture and language of host countries, he said.
“But the most powerful force driving the exploitation and abuse of children is demand. If more rigorous and effective action is not taken against those who profit from such abuse, we will not be able to stop the multiple forms of slavery where children are the victims,” he said.
Immigrant adults must cooperate more closely with host communities “for the good of their own children,” he said.
Countries need to work together and communities need to offer “authentic development” for all boys and girls “who are humanity’s hope,” he said.
Saying inadequate funding often “prevents the adoption of adequate policies aimed at assistance and inclusion,” the pope said that instead of programs that help children integrate or safely repatriate, “there is simply an attempt to curb the entrance of migrants, which in turn fosters illegal networks” or governments forcibly repatriate people without any concern “for their ‘best interests.'”
While nations have the right to control migration and protect and safeguard their citizens, Pope Francis said it must be done while carrying out “the duty to resolve and regularize the situation of child migrants,” and fully respecting the rights and needs of the children and their parents “for the good of the entire family.”
The pope praised the “generous service” of all those who work with minors who migrate, urging them to “not tire of courageously living the Gospel, which calls you to recognize and welcome the Lord Jesus among the smallest and most vulnerable.”
Speaking to reporters at the Vatican press office, Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, said Christians cannot be xenophobic and they cannot refuse to help welcome immigrants.
While it is impossible for one country “to receive everyone,” he said, that doesn’t mean the problem will be solved by telling immigrants to leave or saying that no one may come.
“It’s a problem that needs to be solved, seek a solution,” he said.
Unfortunately, the cardinal said, people tend to be self-centered and bothered by the presence of “the other.” People prefer to keep to their “ivory tower, their gilded cage and do not want any disturbance” or threats to “the beautiful things we have.”
“This is egoism. This is not human or Christian,” he said.
(Editor’s note: look in the next Mississippi Catholic for a story about what Catholic Charities is doing here in the Diocese of Jackson for migrants, refugees and immigrants.)