Immigration Advocacy Newsletter October- November 2014

Immigration Advocacy Network Newsletter

October- November 2014

Election results are in; Executive Action expected on immigration; detained Central American families are winning asylum; the reemergence of the Sanctuary Movement and more in this month’s newsletter!

  1. Advocacy Calendar
  2. Administrative Update
  3. Election Results
  4. Resources
  1. Advocacy Calendar

    • Are you looking for a way to engage your community in fellowship, study, and advocacy around immigration this Advent? Consider participating in or hosting Las Posadas!
      • Celebrating Las Posadas is a Latin American Christmas tradition that honors the Nine Days of La Posada (The Lodging) from 16 December to Christmas Eve. The yearly tradition commemorates the journey of Mary, Joseph, and the unborn Jesus as they traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem looking for lodging. On each of the nine evenings, town members and choristers carry torches, banners, or paintings of The Holy Family as they walk from home to home seeking shelter. At a pre-selected house or community space, the door opens to all with an invitation for refreshments, caroling and dancing, and scriptural readings. The celebration re-enacts the ancient journey and symbolizes the welcome of Jesus into the home and one’s heart.
      • Learn more about holding Las Posadas in your community with the Las Posadas toolkit or email to connect with other Episcopal congregations hosting Posadas

  2. Administrative Update

    Administration set to open fourth and largest family detention center in TX; 8 Artesia detainees win asylum

    The 2,400-bed family detention facility in Dilley, TX is set to begin receiving families in early December 2014. Following the rapid return to and expansion of family detention in the United States, this center will be the largest family detention center in the country. The hastily constructed Artesia facility in New Mexico has raised numerous human rights violations and due process protection concerns, and the speed with which the Administration is expanding detention in Texas is expected to lead to similarly substandard results. In fact, to open the Dilley site quickly, ICE avoided the traditional competitive bidding process, which could have taken 18 months to get the facility up and running, and instead contracted through an existing contract run out of Arizona with the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). CCA is the largest for-profit prison company in the world and is the same for-profit company that managed the infamous T. Don Hutto Family Residential Center. This family detention facility was closed by the Obama Administration in 2009 after a federal lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the University of Texas Law School Immigration Clinic documented numerous reports of abuse, human rights violations, and the psychological trauma suffered by the children and families residing in the center.

    Members of Congress in both the House and Senate have spoken out against the costly practice of family detention through letters to both President Obama and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. House and Senate members have asked that the Administration halt construction of new facilities and called for an end to further deportations of these women and children as they are being deported without full access to the asylum system or due process protections.

    While the ability of women and children to access the asylum system while in detention is severely limited, the first set of asylum cases from the Artesia, NM facility have entered the courts. In stark contrast to the Administration’s claim that these women and children do not have valid asylum claims, the American Immigration Lawyers Association pro bono attorney network recently tried and won nine consecutive asylum cases for detained women who had expressed a fear of return to their country of origin. The precedent set by these cases is incredibly important, both for increasing access for other detained women and for demonstrating to the Administration and others the dire conditions and violence these families will face if deported.

    According to a recently released report from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services and the Women’s Refugee Commission, most of the families detained –98% of those interviewed at the Karnes facility– are seeking asylum or other protection in the United States.

    Sanctuary movement spreads across the country

    In the face of Congressional failure to pass immigration reform legislation and the delay of significant administrative action, congregations across the country have opened their doors to immigrants seeking sanctuary and relief from the threat of deportation. Building upon the Sanctuary movement of the 1980s, the rapidly growing list of cities with congregations offering and supporting sanctuary includes Boston, Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, New York, Oakland, Portland, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle and Tucson. Physical sanctuary is currently being provided in Phoenix, Tucson, Chicago, and Portland. There are currently 5 people in Sanctuary and two Sanctuary cases have resulted in relief from deportation.

    The original Sanctuary Movement began in the 1980s when large numbers of people fleeing the civil wars in Central America arrived in the United States seeking refuge. At that time, however, there was no refugee program or immigration avenue in place for these vulnerable people. In response, Southside Presbyterian in Tucson, AZ opened its doors to hundreds of Central Americans, followed by churches across the country who responded in kind, collectively offering sanctuary to thousands of people. Today, the political landscape and a lack of meaningful legislative reform have led to a return to the practice of offering sanctuary to undocumented immigrants facing deportation orders. Rather than offering sanctuary to newly arriving migrants, the immigrants of today’s movement are undocumented members of our communities, mothers and fathers with longstanding ties to the U.S., who face separation from their families under our broken immigration system. These mothers and fathers are seeking relief from deportation under the policy known as “prosecutorial discretion.” Authorized in the Morton Memos of 2011, immigration authorities have been instructed to consider consideration factors such as whether an immigrant has a criminal background, is a parent to an American-born child, has sought education, and other factors in determining whether to seek an individual’s deportation.

    • Learn more about the Sanctuary Movement, how your congregation can become involved and more here
    • This Church Is Reviving the Sanctuary Movement to Shelter Undocumented Immigrants From Deportation, The Daily Beast
    • Immigrant living in church gets second chance to avoid deportation, Chicago-Sun Times
  3. Election Results

    Republicans gain control of the Senate and pick up significant seats in the House; Administrative action expected

    Sweeping wins for the Republican Party on Tuesday, November 4th flipped the Senate majority, gaining at least 7 seats. They could gain up to 9 but the races in Alaska and Louisiana remain too close to call. In the House, more than a dozen races are still too close to call, but the Republicans are expected to gain 10-15 seats, giving them approximately 250 seats compared to the Democrats 185.

    The midterms were not a referendum on immigration per say but the future for immigration measures under the new majority remain unclear. The question is, what will Republicans do now that they have control of both chambers? Immigration has remained a divisive issue within the party and Republican leadership in the House has been unable to corral the votes necessary to pass any immigration reform in the 113th Congress. Legislative reform remains the ultimate solution for our broken immigration system and the only solution that can truly bring people out of the shadows and offer them meaningful access to citizenship. However, in the vacuum, there are many ways that President Obama can improve the lives of immigrants facing deportation.

    Any action taken will be controversial and unpopular with Republicans and legislative backlash in both chambers remains a possibility. In late October three Republican members of the Senate “Gang of Eight” sent a letter to President Obama asking him to not take executive action on immigration, stating “Mr. President, we urge you to work with Congress to secure our borders and address the serious issues facing America’s immigration system. Unilateral action by the executive branch on this issue would be detrimental to finding and enacting much-needed long-term policy and legislative solutions to our broken immigration system.” However, the pressure from advocates and families facing separation continues to mount as the dust settles after the midterm elections.

  4. Resources

    • Are We Listening? Acting on Our Commitments to Women and Girls Affected by the Syrian Conflict, International Rescue Committee, September 2014
    • Ministry serves farmworkers through sacraments, outreach Episcopal News Service, October 2014
    • How to Manage the Increase in Families and Protection Requests at the Border, Human Rights First, July 2014
    • United States Announces Additional Support for Communities Hosting Syrian Refugees, U.S. Department of State Media Note, October 2013

Please contact Katie Conway, Immigration and Refugee Policy Analyst, at for more information.