|USCCB Migration Committee Meets With Top Enforcement Official To Discuss Immigration Raids, Concern For Children|
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration hosted a meeting on March 10 with Assistant Secretary Julie Myers of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to discuss the impact of immigration enforcement raids around the country. Assistant Secretary Myers heads the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency within DHS, which is charged with the enforcement of immigration law in the interior of the country.
Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the committee, stated that the tone of the meeting was not confrontational but cooperative. While acknowledging the right of the government to enforce the law, the committee told Assistant Secretary Myers that the use of raids should be minimized, if not abandoned altogether.
"We wanted to communicate our desire to work with the government to minimize the use of raids and to reduce the negative impact of the raids on immigrant families," said Bishop Wester. "We felt that the Assistant Secretary was willing to work more closely with us to prevent the separation of families and to protect children."
Over the past eighteen months, ICE has conducted worksite enforcement raids in such diverse areas as Greeley, Colorado; Grand Island, Nebraska; and New Bedford, Massachusetts. It also has conducted two raids in Utah, in Logan and Linden, arresting more than 250 workers. During these raids children who are U.S. citizens have been separated from undocumented parents arrested during the raids.
"Our primary concern is to reduce the trauma that children experience when a parent is taken away suddenly," said Bishop Wester. "We informed the Assistant Secretary that diocesan and Catholic Charities personnel are in a good position to help families in the aftermath of an enforcement action."
Bishop Wester added that the discussion focused on common interests, as well, including the need for comprehensive immigration reform and the fight to end human trafficking. The committee also expressed opposition to enforcement activity focused on churches, hospitals, or social service programs on humanitarian grounds.
"The bishops of the committee expressed concern about enforcement activity around parishes, where migrants seek spiritual assistance, as well as places which provide basic needs assistance," said Bishop Wester. "We believe that Assistant Secretary Myers heard our concerns on this matter."
"We do not want migrants to be afraid to attend Mass or to seek the basic assistance that they need," Bishop Wester added.