Immigration Advocacy Newsletter Executive Action Edition

Immigration Advocacy Newsletter Executive Action Edition

December 15, 2014

Immigration Advocacy Network Newsletter- Executive Action Edition

President Obama announces executive actions that will defer deportation for nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants; the largest-ever family detention center opens in Texas; Congress passes a budget just in time; and Syrian resettlement picks up in United States, in the last newsletter of the year!

  1. Advocacy Calendar
  2. Executive Action
  3. Administrative Updates
  1. Advocacy Calendar
    • Do you have families in your congregation who will benefit from the recently announced executive action? If so, please contact  Katie Conway, Immigration and Refugee Policy Analyst ([email protected] )
    • The Sanctuary Movement continues to grow- learn more about the movement & how your congregation can become involved here
    • Send Christmas gifts to immigrant children in family detention- Good News Lutheran Church in San Antonio is working with ICE to bring gifts to child in the Karnes County family detention center who face medical issues, restricted movement and depression as a result of detention. They only need 300 gifts to create happy memories for these children amidst the trauma of spending Christmas in a detention center. Due to health and safety regulations, the federal government allows only letters to be sent to detained individuals: no packages, but they are making an incredible exception to allow gifts into the facilities. Please follow the instructions below to the letter to order and ship a gift to a child in family detention. Please have your gift arrive at Good News Lutheran Church by Dec. 23 so it can be delivered to the facility by Christmas morning. Gifts that arrive by any other process will not be accepted by the ICE facility.

 

  1. Go to the registry
  2. Choose & purchase a gift.
  3. Enter in the church mailing address listed on the registry (also listed below)
  4. Return to the registry and mark your gift as purchased.
  5. Let [email protected] know you participated

Mailing address for gifts:

Good News Lutheran Church

11020 Old Corpus Christi Hwy

San Antonio, TX 78223

210-213-6620 (Rosemarie)

 

  • 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
  1. Executive Action

On Thursday, November 20, President Obama announced a historic series of executive actions that will extend temporary relief from deportation to nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants. Following months of activism on behalf of immigrant communities and advocates as well as months of inaction from the House of Representatives, the President’s executive actions touch upon many pieces of the broken immigration system from visa waivers to enforcement priorities.

Most notably, these announcements expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children and create a new program for the parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents called the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program. The changes to DACA include removing the age cap that prevented those older than 31 from receiving relief and moving back the cutoff date for the residency requirement to include individuals residing continuously in the country between the original cutoff of June 15, 2007 and the new cutoff of January 1, 2010.

 

The executive orders also include important changes to immigration enforcement guidelines, including a Department of Homeland Security (DHS)-wide memo to provide even greater discretion to all agencies and refocus their attention on individuals who present threats to national security or individuals with criminal convictions. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have also been instructed to identify individuals in their custody who may qualify for DACA or DAPA, and exercise discretion in favor of these individuals. For individuals in immigration proceedings before the Board of Immigration Appeals who may qualify for the new or expanded program, ICE lawyers have been instructed to close the case and refer people to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  The orders also terminate the controversial Secure Communities program. While The Episcopal Church and other organizations across the denominational and political spectrum have long advocated for the end of the Secure Communities Program, it remains to be seen what type of program and priorities will replace it. There are also grave concerns for the human and due process rights of “recent unlawful entrants,” who are stated as enforcement priorities alongside national security threats and those with criminal convictions.

The series of actions will provide vital relief to many families across the country and The Episcopal Church stands ready to assist with the fair and inclusive implementation of this program. We also stand ready to continue to push for comprehensive reform that includes those left out of these announcements - those without U.S. citizen children, the parents of DACA recipients, and many others- and a permanent legislative solution that offers a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented members of our communities.

For more information on program qualifications and enforcement changes, please see the resources below. Also, please remember that the application opens in early 2015. Anyone soliciting fees for applications or offering expedited application processing is attempting to scam you and should be reported to the government immediately.  USCIS is expected to begin taking DACA applications in mid-February and DAPA applications in mid-May but check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date information.

 

  • Experts from across the immigration law and immigration advocacy fields have come together to create a central Administrative Action Relief  site- click here to learn more about program requirements, what documents an application may require, when the application process will open, and receive updates

 

 

 

 

  1. Administrative Updates

Obama Administration opens largest-ever family detention center in Dilley, TX

Following the announcement in November that the Obama Administration will offer relief from detention and deportation to millions of families, the Department of Homeland Security opened the largest-ever family detention facility in Dilley, Texas on Monday, December 15. Built to hold recently arrived Central American families, the facility is initially expected to hold about 450 detainees, the majority of whom are women, young children and infants. The full capability of the facility, however, is an estimated 2,400 people.  Women and children who have been housed in the temporary Artesia, NM facility are in the process of being transferred to the Dilley facility.

In response to the large numbers of unaccompanied children and women with children that arrived this summer, many of whom were fleeing violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, the Obama Administration dramatically expanded the use of family detention. Until June, only one permanent, 85-bed family detention facility operated in the United States. Since then, the Department of Homeland Security has opened one temporary facility in Artesia, New Mexico with over 700 beds and two permanent facilities:  a 532-bed center in Karnes County, Texas, and the 2,400-bed facility in Dilley, Texas. This escalation is in response to the 16,329 family units apprehended by border patrol in June. However, by the end of the summer arrivals had already fallen to 3,295 families and have remained low in recent months.  Despite this dramatic change in arrivals and the finding by service providers and immigration attorneys that 98% of these women and children detained at the Karnes facility are seeking asylum in the United States, Secretary Jeh Johnson has referred to the detention of families as part of an “aggressive deterrence strategy.”

While advocates across the human rights, child welfare, immigrants’ rights, and legal community welcome the closure of the Artesia facility, it is anticipated that the human rights and due process violations that plagued Artesia will continue at Dilley. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has contracted with the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) to run the facility. CCA is the largest for-private prison company in the world and it 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.

Congress passes a $1.1 trillion FY15 spending bill; DHS only funded through February 2015

Following a week of uncertainty, Congress averted a government shutdown by passing the “CROmnibus”- a continuing resolution (CR) and omnibus package- late last week and over the weekend.  The bill will fund the government through the end of Fiscal Year 2015, with the notable exception of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which will be funded until the end of February by a short-term continuing resolution. The House has already expressed its displeasure with President Obama’s executive actions through several hearings in early December but the short-term CR for DHS will allow the 114th Congress to revisit the agency’s funding in February. Congressional Republicans have pledged to revisit immigration and the funding for immigration enforcement agencies in the new Congress with an eye to delaying, impeding, or overturning the President’s executive action at the beginning of 2015.

 

Refugee resettlement communities prepare for the arrival of Syrian families

The Syrian refugee crisis is the largest forced displacement of people in the world today with 9.5 million people displaced, including 3.2 million refugees who have fled to neighboring countries. The factors driving the displacement have evolved since the beginning of the Syrian uprising in March 2011: civil conflict has turned to civil war, and internal strife has turned to regional upheaval with the rise of the Islamic State/ISIS. Whereas civilians fled from the fighting between Bashar al-Assad’s government forces and opposition forces like the Free Syrian Army in 2011 and 2012, in 2013 and 2014 Islamic State (ISIL) presented new threats to the civilian population and vulnerable populations in Iraq. Countries in the region, most notably Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan, have welcomed millions of Syrian refugees since the conflict began in 2011, but systems and resources are currently stretched to the breaking point. The onset of winter and ongoing food insecurity will put further stress on the region and threaten the lives of those displaced within and outside of Syria.

 

To date the United States has not resettled many Syrian refugees but that will change in 2015 and 2016.  In 2015 the United States will begin to welcome greater numbers of Syrian refugees to resettlement communities around the country, including to the 26 diocese in which Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) welcomes refugees and other vulnerable migrants. Learn more about Syrian refugees and how you can participate in the ministry of welcome below:

  • On December 8th, the EPPN and EMM hosted a webinar on the Syrian Refugee Crisis and The Episcopal Church’s role in resettlement. Find the recorded webinar here and use this discussion guide to facilitate a community discussion

 

  • Food shortages are imminent in Syria and in the countries bordering Syria where millions of refugees are living in camps and urban situations. The World Food Program can help, but more funding is needed if the program is to continue operation throughout the winter an spring