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Mass Deportations Violate Faith In America

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President Trump claims to be a man of Christian faith. Perhaps he never learned the underlying principles, such as welcoming the stranger and showing love for neighbor. Leviticus 19:33 remind us, “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Donald Trump chose to stake his political career on attacking immigrants to create fear and division rather than sewing seeds of peace and unity. The most recent Executive Orders and memoranda from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) show a cruelty and inhumanity that are a shameful affront to immigrants, our sacred faith traditions, and the American dream. Already we have seen Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) apprehend a domestic violence survivor in Texas, mother in Arizona, Methodist lay leader in Kansas, "Dreamer" (DACA recipient) in Washington State, and men leaving a hypothermia shelter at Rising Hope Mission Church in Virginia. That’s what happens when our government violates core American values and our core faith values. The America we believe in is a country with a tremendous history of human rights atrocities that has sought to make social change through the power of people who have struggled to bring equity to their communities, and lift up human dignity and the common good. Now we are once again on the brink of human rights disasters, and we have no choice but to organize and mobilize all people of faith and good will to resist evil. It’s important that we understand exactly what the Trump Administration is declaring here with its sweeping new guidelines: A mass deportation program that criminalizes and deports immigrants from all 50 states, betrays our core values, and makes America less safe. ALL UNDOCUMENTED COMMUNITY MEMBERS ARE TARGETED Faith communities have helped stop deportation orders and keep families together through guidelines that allowed many undocumented people with family and community ties stay in the United States. Under the Trump Administration, all undocumented immigrants are targeted simply for being undocumented. ERODES FAMILIES AND PUTS CHILDREN IN DANGER Many children will be denied safety protections currently provided under the Trafficking Victim Protection and Reauthorization Act, enacted with bipartisan support and signed into law by President Bush in 2008. When putting a child in the hands of a smuggler is the best option for that child’s life, it is clear that parents are desperate to find any alternative to seeing their child murdered, raped or conscripted into gangs. But children arriving at the U.S. border alone to seek safety and be reunited with a parent in the United States, will be placed in an immigration detention facility and denied access to critical social services. They will not appear before an immigration judge before being deported, which will result in many children being returned back into the hands of traffickers and others who seek to exploit them. DHS is also directed to criminally charge and deport anyone who “directly or indirectly” helps a child seek safety in the United States, grossly distorting the terms “smuggling or trafficking” to apply to mothers, fathers, grandparents, and caregivers who put together what little money they can for their child to reach safety. The Trump policies clearly violate our most basic values regarding the importance of family unity, the safety of children, and our shared humanity. ERODES PUBLIC SAFETY The Trump Administration wants us to believe that by deporting undocumented people, they are making America safer. But the facts speak for themselves: crime rates are lower in Sanctuary Cities with community policing practices and local police who do not engage in immigration enforcement. Law enforcement officers rely on neighbors to watch out for each other. Whether documented or not, damaging trust between immigrant communities and local police makes all of us less safe when witnesses to, or victims of, crimes are less likely to turn to the police out of fear of deportation. ERODES THE 4TH AMENDMENT, DUE PROCESS AND THE RIGHTS OF ASYLUM SEEKERS Despite safety concerns, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is to resume “task force” agreements that train police to act as federal immigration agents. Conscripting local and state law enforcement officers raises serious civil rights and due process concerns. ICE also plans to persuade local police to hold immigrants for them. Five federal courts have ruled that these ICE “detainer requests” are often unconstitutional and put local police at risk of violating the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. More than 350 localities have intentionally limited their relationship with immigration enforcement to ensure their law enforcement officers comply with the Constitution and maintain community relationships that keep everyone safer. Due process is also at risk. The Trump Administration plans to deport immigrants and asylum seekers, who have been in the United States for less than two years, in as little as 24 hours through an expedited removal process – all without the opportunity to appear before an immigration judge or consult legal counsel. Such action would eviscerate due process for asylum seekers and tens of thousands of immigrants, including those with family ties and deep roots in our communities. Expedited removal also has the potential to sweep up individuals who have been here for years but cannot provide the necessary paperwork at the time of apprehension. DHS can dump individuals across the border to await their hearing, putting women, children, disabled, and other vulnerable individuals at risk of violence in Mexico. They also face an increased likelihood of deportation without due process or other abuse by the Mexican authorities. PLACES “SENSTIVE LOCATIONS” AT RISK Many are concerned ICE is changing its guidelines on enforcement actions at or near “sensitive locations”, including places of worship, schools, hospitals and public demonstrations. DHS needs to immediately make it clear that the “sensitive locations” policy remains in effect, and we must hold the Administration accountable. The recent arrests of men leaving a hypothermia shelter in a Methodist Church clearly violate these guidelines. INCREASES OUR TAX BURDEN Let’s also do a reality check here. Who’s paying for all this? The Trump order militarizes our immigration enforcement system and mandates 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents and 10,000 additional ICE agents. It requires CBP to develop a plan and begin construction of the border wall with “complete operational control of the border.” Not only is 100% control of any international border impossible, the price tag according DHS, is $21 billion to build an additional 1250 miles of fencing and barriers by 2020, not including maintenance costs. Additionally, the cost of detention will dramatically rise. Already, ICE’s current capacity of 34,000 detention beds costs taxpayers more than $2 billion each year. We cannot for a moment allow our communities to bend to the xenophobic messages coming from this Administration. Thousands of cities and houses of worship will continue to resist discrimination and deportations through Sanctuary. As communities of faith, we will continue to welcome the stranger and love our neighbor regardless of nationality, language, race, religion, or documentation status into our places of worship. Immigrants are members of our communities, part of the fabric of our society, benefit our economy, and contribute to our diversity as a nation. Deportation and family separation is not restorative justice. Calling for mass deportation shamefully disregards the enormous contribution immigrants have made to build this country and betrays the principles of faith we hold most dear. Read the Trump Administration’s Executive Orders and Enforcement Memos here: Implementing the President’s Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvement Policies and Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest, to implement President Trump’s Executive Orders on border security and on interior enforcement. About the Author: Rev. Noel Andersen is the National Grassroots Coordinator for Church World Service, ordained in the United Church of Christ, and a key national leader in the Sanctuary Movement efforts. Noel Castellanos is CEO of the Christian Community Development Association, based in Chicago.