In 1996, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia voted to support a Corporate Stand on Immigration. Given the increased anti-immigrant and anti-refugee attitudes in the United States today, and resistance of congress to pass legislation that would repair our broken immigration system, this corporate stand is even more relevant today.
As a result of the failure of congress to act, immigration issues have multiplied and become more complex. The number of detention centers—holding mostly women and children—has increased, some managed by for-profit prison corporations. Families are separated. A 600 mile long fence extends along the U.S.-Mexican border and some politicians and citizens are calling for greater militarization. In 2014, the president enacted an executive order—DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)—which provided young adults who were brought here as children the opportunity to study and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation for two years with possibility of renewal. Yet under this administration, more immigrants have been deported than ever before. The president issued another executive order—new DACA and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents)—which was taken to court by Texas and 25 other states. The lawsuit was appealed to the 8-member Supreme Court which failed to rule, thus enabling the lawsuit to stand. Many immigrants escaping from violence in Central American countries, especially the Northern Triangle of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, have not been given the opportunity to apply for refugee status.
Due to ongoing wars and violent conflicts, the situation of refugees from the Middle East, especially from Syria and Iraq, as well as from African countries, has become desperate. Today we see the greatest global migration since WWII, millions of people seeking not just a better life, but life itself. Stories abound about refugees taking extremely dangerous risks to achieve safety from violence, thousands drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, and many dying in the north desert of Mexico. Because most refugees from the Middle East are Muslims, Islamophobia has grown in the U.S. with blame for ISIS terrorist attacks spreading to all Muslims, unjustifiably labeling them as terrorists.
Concrete Examples of Support for Immigrants and Refugees
Interfaith Root Causes Delegation to Honduras
- Read Sr. Maria Orlandini’s reflection about her trip to Honduras
- Frequently addresses the plight of refugees and immigrants.
- Celebrated liturgy and met with refugees in the Lesbos on his first visit outside the Vatican.
Efforts of U.S. Faith Organizations/Immigrant Rights Groups
- Speak out against human rights abuses
- Join immigrants for systemic reform
- Hold welcoming events
- House refugees
- Promote positive legislation
- Oppose negative legislation
- Hold vigils at detention centers
- Minister to those released from detention centers
- Participate in delegations to the U.S. southern border
- Declared some cities Sanctuary Cities
- Offer sanctuary in churches for immigrants unjustly threatened with deportation.
What Can You Do?
The challenges are many, the tasks are multiple, and there is something for everyone to do.
- Read and watch televised stories about immigrants and refugees and keep them in daily prayer. Give special prayerful attention to separated families on family feasts and holidays, e.g., Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter. Remember today’s refugees when honoring the refugee Holy Family on their flight into Egypt.
- Respond to alerts from the congregation’s justice coordinators when asked to call your representative or senators in congress to oppose or support a particular bill. Ask another person to also respond.
- Learn more about Muslims and true Islam. If possible, meet with Muslims in your area and engage in mutual dialogue. If the docudrama “The Sultan and the Saint” comes to a city near you, attend the screening, invite others, and converse with Muslims present. Read Francis and the Sultan, by Sr. Kathleen Warren, OSF, a Rochester, Minnesota Franciscan.
- Make use of the resources listed below to educate yourself further and learn about actions you can take.
The rise of anti-immigrant bias and backlash in the United States and congressional legislation severely restricting the number of and conditions for admitting immigrants seeking political asylum gravely concerns the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. With members working with Hispanic and other immigrant populations within the United States and in other countries suffering political persecution and economic hardship, the members decided, in August, 1996, to take a stand to work for more just and humane immigration legislation. Read more.
Today members continue to seek just Comprehensive Immigration Reform through legislation and take action to diminish the economic and political hardships immigrants face, including those who are undocumented.