When considering the current immigration patterns, there doesn’t seem to be an easy solution for anyone involved. Just last week, a high-school student from our Ossining community was detained. He was preparing to graduate and attend his senior prom; now, he is detained in New Jersey pending deportation back to Ecuador.
The separation of family and lack of access to education caused by this action is deeply upsetting, and a stark signal that our present immigration law is badly broken and in need of reform.
As we’ve spent decades working with and advocating for immigrants, we’ve seen just how broken our current system is.
Dominican Sister of Hope Debbie Blow, OP, for example, understands first-hand the environments from which many immigrants come. As the Executive Director of the North Country Mission of Hope, a spiritually-based humanitarian organization committed to fostering hope and empowering relationships with the people of Nicaragua, Sister Debbie has led over sixty trips to Nicaragua over the past eighteen years.
It was explained to me this way: in those countries, it’s not ‘Will I have a life?’ it’s ‘When will I die? How will I die?’
Over the course of years, Sister Debbie has seen that despair is part of many family’s daily lives.
When discussing this, she calls to mind an observation from a Nicaraguan sister who was visiting the U.S. several years ago. As the two drove around Plattsburgh, New York, (where Sister Debbie lives) they passed a garage on the side of the road. When the Nicaraguan sister asked who lived in it, Sister Debbie clarified that nobody lived in the garage, but that it was for automobiles or tools.
The Nicaraguan sister replied, “Your cars and your animals live better than most of our people.”
But poverty is just the beginning of the litany of issues that drives people to leave their homes and seek better lives. Many are confronted with a lack of food, a lack of education, a serious lack of healthcare, plus violence and unrest, to boot.
“It was explained to me this way,” Sister Debbie recalls, “In those countries, it’s not ‘Will I have a life,’ it’s ‘When will I die? How will I die?’”
This state of despair is challenging to confront, but it must be confronted all the same. The current law ignores the human situation of separated families and the oppressive living conditions that force people to migrate.
That’s why we support a compassionate and comprehensive immigration law that:
1. Provides the processes for undocumented persons to achieve permanent residency and citizenship without leaving the United States
2. Creates legal avenues for migration
3. Assures family unity for immigrant families
4. Provides guaranteed human rights and labor protections for undocumented workers and all workers
5. Addresses the root-causes of migration by protecting the human rights of workers internationally.
We Dominican Sisters are commited to educating ourselves on immigration legislation, spreading the word to those around us, and contacting local and federal legislators to support the issue of a just reform of immigration laws.
We often see migrants presented as “illegal” or “aliens.” We urge you to remember the ever-present human situation of separated families and the oppressive living conditions that force people to migrate.
We also urge you to ask yourself the following, a challenge: