In the United States, tens of thousands of immigrants are detained in county jails and for-profit prisons every day. The system of detention utilized by ICE (Immigration and Custom Enforcement) is huge and becoming harder and harder to navigate by the immigrant detainees. They may face months or years of detention, as our immigration courts fall further and further behind. Since the detained immigrants are not being held for criminal offenses, they don’t have the same rights as someone facing criminal charges-including the right to an attorney for their immigration hearings. The immigrant detainees have an infinite number of stories-some have been detained by ICE after serving time in prison for a felony or misdemeanor, some have been “picked up” by ICE off the streets or from their cars or homes after living and working in the United States for years, some have just crossed into the United States without documentation, and many are seeking asylum in the United States and fear for their lives in their native country.
Currently in Minnesota, five county jails receive federal monies to house ICE detainees: Ramsey, Sherburne, Freeborn, Carver, and Nobles. Throughout the country, there are hundreds of detention facilities which provide 34,000 beds each day for ICE detainees.
RUCC has generously supported an organization called Conversations with Friends through our endowment funds for the past three years. This volunteer organization was founded by Reverend John Guttermann, who passed away last year. Conversations with Friends (CWF) volunteers provide visits to ICE detainees at the Freeborn and the Ramsey county jails twice a month. The group spends about an hour with the detainees in conversation, sharing stories, singing, and simply letting them know they are not alone. CWF sends books to the detainees upon request, to help the men pass their time during many long days. The group also offers the detainees an invitation to participate in a couple of other options. One is a letter writing program and many of the immigrants state that receiving a letter brightens their day. Also, the detainees are asked if they want to be a part of the Circle of Compassion. RUCC participates in this program. You may have noticed periodic bulletin inserts listing the names of the people who have asked to be on this list. The Circle of Compassion is a group of churches and individuals who have agreed to pray and think of these detainees often to help assure them they are not forgotten.
This has been another hard week of trauma in our country. People are still suffering devastating after effects of storms, fires, and earthquakes. Another mass shooting in a public square has caused shock and confusion, and the resurgence of white supremacy is causing wide spread fear. We will speak to this pain.
Please join us for prayer vigil at 10:00pm on Sunday night. Why so late, you ask? First, it is the one week anniversary of the Las Vegas shooting. Second, it takes us out of our routine, shifts our focus, and invites us to a deeper place.
Do you know the difference between refugees, immigrants, undocumented persons, and asylum seekers? Here are very brief definitions of people who fall into these categories:
Refugees – Persons who are outside the country of their nationality, and who are unable or unwilling to return to, and unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of the country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. (from The Refugee Act of 1980)
Immigrants – Foreign-born nationals who come to the US with an intention to settle here permanently and usually for reasons other than fear of persecution.
Undocumented persons – Individuals who enter the country without permission and those who enter legally but violate the terms of entry by overstaying their visas.
Political asylum applicants – Individuals who have requested refugee status having already entered the US, but whose applications are still pending.
You Can Help By Helping to Dispel Myths about Immigrants
As our congregation discerns whether to become an Immigrant Welcoming Congregation, it is important that we are able to counter some of the many myths about immigration with the truth.
Immigrants are overrunning our country, and most are here illegally.
The Facts: It is true that there are more immigrants living in the U.S. than ever before. However, the percentage of immigrants in the overall population is not much different than many other times throughout our history. Today, immigrants make up approximately13% of the total U.S. population. More than 60% of immigrants in the United States today have lived here for at least 15 years, and a large majority of immigrants have lawful status. Today, the net migration from Mexico (the number of people entering the U.S. from Mexico minus the number of people leaving the U.S. to go to Mexico) is around zero. Undocumented immigrants make up about 3.5% of the nation’s total population.
Myth #2: Immigrants hurt our country financially by taking jobs and services without paying taxes.
The Facts: Though some people claim that immigrants are taking job opportunities away from people born in the U.S., immigrants actually help to create new jobs. In addition to buying American and local products, which helps create jobs, immigrants often start their own businesses. In fact, immigrants are twice as likely to start businesses as citizens born in the U.S., and companies owned by immigrants are more likely to hire employees than companies owned by native-born citizens. States with large numbers of immigrants report lower unemployment for everyone. Immigrants collectively pay between $90 and $140 billion each year in taxes, and a recent study found that undocumented immigrants alone paid more than $11.8 billion in taxes in 2012.
Myth # 3: Immigrants are coming to the U.S. to obtain welfare and other benefits.
The facts: Most immigrants who come to this country work hard to take care of their families and themselves. Many studies have shown that on average immigrants pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits, meaning the taxes they pay more than cover the cost of things like public education and healthcare. With very few exceptions (such as access to medical care for victims of human trafficking), undocumented immigrants are not eligible for federal public benefits such as Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and food stamps.
Source: Adapted from the Anti-Defamation League, 2017
The Dreamers are about 800,000 undocumented youth and young adults whose parents brought them to the U.S before the age of 16. They have been living here uninterrupted since at least 2007. A great majority of these young people do not remember what it was like to live in their country of origin.
What is DACA?
DACA is an executive order President Obama signed. It provides the Dreamers with some protections from being deported and gives them a work permit. It does not give them any legal status, and it does not offer them a path to citizenship.
Can President Trump Get Rid of DACA?
Yes, he can. It appears President Trump is going to phase it out over the next six months.
What Impact Can We Expect on Dreamers After DACA Is Phased Out?
Many Dreamers have seen new opportunities open to them after they got their work permits. Those will no longer be available. These families will face more economic pressure as they return to less stable, lower paying jobs. This is not good for anyone.
We can expect an uptick in suicides once the deportation protections are lifted. Studies tell us that the DACA repeal will have serious impacts on Dreamers’ mental health and the mental health of their children. See these two articles for more information:
Contact your congressperson and tell them that you want them to pass the Dream Act to give the Dreamers legal status and a path to citizenship. Only Congress can fix this. President Trump, by delaying the end of DACA for six months, is giving Congress a chance to come up with a solution.