Immigration Advocacy Network Newsletter February- March 2015
Executive action programs are temporarily delayed; an agreement is reached to fund the Department of Homeland Security; the fate of unaccompanied children in the United States remains precarious and more, all in this month’s newsletter!
- Advocacy Calendar
- Administrative Update
- Congressional Update
- Unaccompanied Children Update
- #ShareTheJourney Pilgrimage to the Great Lakes Region of Africa. From March 2-13, 8 pilgrims will be traveling from dioceses across The Episcopal Church to Nairobi, Kenya and Kigali, Rwanda to learn about the plight of Congolese refugees and their journey to resettlement in the United States. Among the planned visits are the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre and the Gihembe Refugee Camp in Rwanda as well as operations supported by Church World Service's Resettlement Support Center (RSC)-Africa, and the UN refugee agency UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). You can share their journey too through photos, firsthand accounts, and reflections by following #ShareTheJourney on Twitter (@EMMRefugees) and the trip blog.
Sunday, March 15, Pray for Syrian Refugees Throughout the week of March 15, the international community will mark a tragic anniversary as the Syrian conflict enters its 5th year. Syrians inside the country and Syrian refugees need our prayers, service, and fellowship- download the bulletin insert and learn more here.
- Looking for immigration and refugee ministries in your diocese or across The Episcopal Church? Find them through the Episcopal Asset Map! The map is a powerful tool that shows the depth and breadth of ministries across our Church. It allows you to find what is happening in your diocese on the issues you care about and view ministries in neighboring dioceses and around the country.
- Congress is considering several bills that could remove important protections for unaccompanied immigrant children and make it more difficult for refugees and asylum seekers to access the lifesaving protection they need. The consistently updated Interfaith Immigration Coalition (IIC) call-in number is a great way to stand with these vulnerable groups and make calls to your members of Congress- your voice is needed.
- Call 1-866-940-2439 to hear a recorded message about the bills currently being considered and the advocacy script, and then you will then be connected to the appropriate members of Congress.
Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and the Expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs temporarily delayed by Texas court ruling
On February 16, 2015, a district judge in the Southern District of Texas issued a ruling that temporarily blocked the implementation of the immigration actions announced by President Obama on November 20, 2014, which would allow millions of immigrants to come forward and apply for deportation relief and work authorization. The ruling was issued one day before hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children would have been able to apply for work permits and legal protection from deportation under the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Critics of the President’s actions have hailed the ruling as proof that the administrative actions are unconstitutional, but the substance of the ruling is considerably narrower in scope. Judge Hannon ruled that in Texas and 25 other states challenging the administration’s programs, implementing these programs would impose major burdens on states, specifically citing the cost of issuing drivers licenses to individuals granted deferred action. Further, he ruled that the manner in which the programs and new rules were announced failed to comply with the requirements established under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The APA is a law that governs how administrations and agencies may propose and establish federal regulations.
On Thursday, March 12, the Justice Department (DOJ) requested that a federal appeals court lift the lower court’s hold on the executive actions. This move elevates the case to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is located in New Orleans. Even with the appeal from DOJ, it is unclear how long it will be before the appeals court rules and the programs open. In the meantime, the government is still preparing to put the programs in place but no applications should be submitted nor will they be accepted. The enforcement reforms included in the President’s November 2014 executive actions and the original DACA program, first announced in June 2012, are not affected by the lawsuit.
In January 2015, over 100 bishops joined The Presiding Bishop in welcoming the executive action that grants relief from deportation for nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants. These programs will provide vital relief to millions of families across the country, protecting them from separation and allowing undocumented members to more fully participate in our communities and our economy. Resolutions passed by the General Convention and Executive Council of The Episcopal Church call for policies that protect families from separation through deportation and the humane enforcement of immigration law, and therefore the Church stands ready to assist with the fair and inclusive implementation of these programs when they begin. In the meantime, however, community members who plan to apply for either the DACA or DAPA programs should continue to gather the necessary documents, budget for the cost of application fees, and consult an attorney if they have any questions or concerns about applying.
- Learn more about the requirements and parameters of the DACA and DAPA programs and where you can access legal services here
- Reapplying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or know someone who is? Check out this handy FAQ from the National Immigrant Law Center
- DAPA eligible mother Ehiracenia Vasquez writes about the wait for DAPA in her New York Times editorial, "Life Without Papers"
- Debate around these programs continues. Stand with immigrant families by sharing the bishops’ letter with your elected officials through the EPPN
“Operation Crosscheck “ sweeps up more than 2,000 undocumented immigrants in search for criminals; some cases tell a different story
Last week, immigration enforcement officials arrested more than 2,000 immigrants convicted of crimes through a weeklong raid called “Operation Cross Check.” The sixth operation of this kind since 2011, “Cross Check” is intended to apprehend those in the United States who have committed crimes in the past and pose a significant threat to public safely. According to media reports, however, nearly 500 individuals captured by the operation were apprehended for the crime of re-entering the U.S. after previous deportations, and attorneys and families report that some of those being labeled “worst offenders” are individuals whose most serious crimes were misdemeanors. In stark contrast to the Administration’s enforcement reforms announced in November, many swept up in the raid are immigrants who finished their criminal sentences years ago and are now parents and dedicated community members, including a Mennonite priest in-training.
DHS Funding Agreement Reached
After a month of contentious debate that only narrowly avoided an agency shutdown, Congress passed a bill in early March to fund the Department of Homeland Security through the end of fiscal year 2015. A solution was reached after weeks of debate and the funding bill boomeranging between the House and Senate. At the heart of the debate was language added to the appropriations bill intended to repeal President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Republicans in the House passed a spending bill with this controversial language included but, ultimately, a “clean funding bill” was passed by the Senate and House and then signed into law by President Obama.
With the Texas lawsuit now delaying implementation of the President’s executive actions, it is unclear if further legislative attempts to repeal the orders will be included in fiscal year 2016 bills this spring.
Unaccompanied Immigrant Children Update
Following the unprecedented influx of unaccompanied immigrant children arriving in the Untied States fleeing violence in Central America in summer 2014, the fate of both the children in the United States and those seeking safety abroad remains unclear in the face of an overburdened court system and possible Congressional action.
For children in the United States awaiting court appearances, the Los Angeles Times recently reported that more than 7,000 children have been ordered deported without seeing the inside of a court room. If children do not appear for their initial court hearing after receiving notice from the government, deportation orders are filed for them. However, attorneys working with these children have reported numerous notification errors that prevented clients from attending hearings and it is unknown how many errors have been made. In response to the arrivals last summer, the Obama Administration instructed courts to realign immigration dockets so that the children would appear before a judge within 21 days of ICE officials filing a deportation case against them. Before this order, children could wait months or even more than a year before their initial hearing date was scheduled. Under the weight of fast-tracked cases, already overburdened immigration dockets and court resources have been overwhelmed. The compressed time frame has also made it more difficult for children to find representation in time for their hearing.
Meanwhile, multiple legislative proposals to remove protections from unaccompanied children and other vulnerable groups such as refugees and asylum seekers have been introduced in the early days of the 114th Congress. In addition to the proposals to block the Administration’s executive actions, the following bills would repeal protection for immigrant children under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, remove the Administration’s 2012 DACA program, expand immigration detention, criminalize overstaying a visa, and narrow access to the asylum system for refugees fleeing persecution and seeking peace.
These bills stand in stark contrast to the resolutions of The Episcopal Church and legislators need to hear from constituents that these policies do not represent our faith or our communities. To learn more about these bills, explore the resources below.
- H.R. 1149 the Protection of Children Act
- H.R. 1153 the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act
- H.R. 1148 the Michael Davis Jr., in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act (formerly the SAFE Act)