Go Back to the Drawing Board

by Gabino Zavala, Justice and Peace Director

Last week the Trump administration announced a new immigration plan with family visas greatly reduced and no mention of Dreamers. This plan is not the just and comprehensive reform of our immigration system that we as a Precious Blood community envision in our corporate stance. The President and his administration must go back to square one to come up with a truly comprehensive, and just reform of our broken immigration system.

President Trump outlined his plan for “modernizing our immigration system for a stronger America,” where he aims to impose more new security measures at the border, dismantle the asylum process, and vastly scale back the system of family-based immigration which has allowed immigrants to bring their spouses and children to live with them. Over the last two years, this administration’s immigration policy has resulted in a ban on travel from six Muslim-majority countries, separation of families at the border, closing the border to asylum seekers and an obsessive desire to build a wall along the U.S.—Mexico border.

As Precious Blood Missionaries we are called to have a love and respect for the poor and the vulnerable in our midst and to recognize the dignity in every human being. It is because of this that we are called to advocate for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Our history tells us that this country was built by immigrants who left their homes under difficult circumstances to make a new life for themselves. This administration’s “new” plan does not address the reality of those who are presently fleeing from violence and oppressive poverty. President Trump forgets that America is stronger when we embrace diversity and work together.

The requirements of this new plan are not in keeping with the Gospel of Jesus, who welcomed all people. Therefore, we advocate that we meet the needs of all vulnerable people. This “new” plan sounds very much like the policies of the last two years, which has served as a sad narrative seeking to demonize and dehumanize our immigrant neighbors. We should urge our President and his administration to go back to the drawing board and find solutions for the common good.

St. Agnes Parish Collaborates With One LA for “Right to Counsel” Proposal

from Fr. David Matz, C.PP.S.
I have been working with One LA and with the Mayor’s office for 2 years on the “right to counsel” proposal for renters. This proposal’s history started at St. Agnes Parish in Los Angeles, where I serve as the pastor. We have done two workshops in the past two years helping our parishioners who are tenants know their rights when it comes to renting and possible illegal eviction. We now in Los Angeles sit on the cusp of a budget proposal to fund this program for the coming year. The following article from One LA’s newsletter explains the latest news conference.

One LA Urges Mayor to Fund a Renters’ “Right to Counsel” 

At a news conference Thursday outside City Hall, One LA and a coalition of tenant advocates pressed for the city to move forward with a “right to counsel” ordinance and called on Mayor Eric Garcetti to allocate $10 million to assist tenants in his upcoming budget.

“We have a humanitarian crisis in our city in regards to homelessness and housing,” said Fr. David Matz of St. Agnes Catholic Church. “In the last ten years we have lost one thousand families from our parish due to these issues. Many of our elderly are forced out of their apartments and left homeless.”

Every year, close to 30,000 people in Los Angeles face evictions. The money from the city would go not only to legal aid, but also to education and prevention, outreach and emergency payments to help keep struggling renters in their homes. The price tag of $10 million would fund the first year of a multi-year timeline to phase it in.

“One LA has worked alongside Mayor Garcetti on the passing of proposition HHH and the linkage fee,” continued Fr. Matz. “Now the LA Right to Counsel Coalition is presenting this strategy to address one of the biggest root problems of homelessness– evictions. We know that Mayor Garcetti is working diligently so we ask him for his support for the “Right to Counsel” and to fully fund it.”

Story in the LA Times

Our On-going Concerns About Immigration

By Gabino Zavala, Justice and Peace Director

On January 9th our Provincial Fr. Joseph Nassal and the Leadership Team published a letter expressing their concern about President Donald Trump’s address from the Oval Office stoking fear concerning immigrants entering our country from our southern border in order to get support for building the wall. These men, women and children are coming not to threaten our safety or way of life, but rather, to escape “violence, poverty, and abuses of their human rights.”  As a people who hear the Cry of the Blood, let us continue to inform ourselves about the real issues of immigration.  I have attached some immigration policy websites and a list of myths and facts on immigration so that we can continue to study and learn about this issue.

Immigration Myths and Facts 

Myth #1:  Our country is being overrun by undocumented immigrants.
Fact: The number of undocumented immigrants in our country peaked in 2007 and has been decreasing steadily since then.

Myth #2:  Creating a pathway to citizenship will take jobs from US citizens.
Fact: Increasing rights and protections for our most vulnerable workers will help lift standards and wages for our entire workforce.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that comprehensive immigration reform would substantially strengthen our economy, increase employment levels and result in a raise for all working people in our country.

Myth 3:  Undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes and they drain our social services.
Fact: All undocumented immigrants pay sales taxes that stimulate our state and local budgets, and many pay federal taxes as well.  However, undocumented immigrants are not eligible for most public welfare benefits, so they contribute more to our public budgets than they receive, creating a positive net fiscal impact.

Myth 4:  Deporting all 11 or 12 million undocumented immigrants will strengthen our economy.
Fact: Removing millions of long-term members of our communities from the United States would cost an estimated $600 billion and would substantially harm our productivity, particularly in industries such as agriculture, construction, and hospitality.

Myth 5:  We have no idea who is coming into our country as a refuge.
Fact: The screening done for our refugee resettlement is extremely rigorous.  On average, candidates wait for nearly two-years for approval of their applications to enter through our humanitarian programs.  It would be a clear violation of US and International law to deny people safe harbor based on the religion they practice or their country of origin.

Myth 6:  Immigrants make our communities less safe.
Fact: Studies consistently show that immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than our general population.  Attempts to label entire groups of immigrants as “criminals” or “terrorists” are patently false and run counter to our core values as a nation.

Myth 7:  Mexico will pay for the wall on our southern border.
Fact: The Mexican government has made it clear that they will never fund the wall.  The project would cost our taxpayers an estimated $25 billion that could otherwise be used to fund schools, roads, bridges and other projects critical to creating good jobs and moving our country forward.

Immigration Policy Websites

The U.S. policies on immigration are fast changing and it is difficult to provide an up-to-date overview ion the latest policies.  Here are some websites that are helpful to do so:

Center for American Progress (you can sign up for updates):
http://americanprogress.org/immigration/reports/2017/04/20/430736/facts-immigration-today-2017-edition/

Pew Research Center offers a visual report on the history of U.S. policies:
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/09/30/how-u-s-immigration-laws-and-rules-have-changed-through-history/

USCIS has a history of and document of the U.S. laws you can download:
https://www.uscis.gov/history-and-genealogy/our-history/agency-history/early-american-immigration-policies

The U.S.Department of State maintains a page on U.S. Visas with the latest information regarding regulations and policies to enter the U.S. territory:
https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas.html

Wikipedia has an article on President Trump’s immigration policy:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_policy_of_Donald_Trump

Fueling Our Fears

Kansas City Province Leadership Team Statement

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear…
1 John 4, 18

The Scripture readings on Wednesday, January 9th reflect on love and fear. In the first reading from the First Letter of John, we are named and claimed as God’s beloved and “if God so loved us, we also must love one another.” In the gospel from Mark, the disciples are caught in a storm at sea. Jesus walks toward them on the water but the disciples are terrified thinking it is a ghost. Jesus says, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid (Mark 6, 45-52).”

Many live in fear today. What are we afraid of? What are the fears that keep us from receiving the perfect love God desires for us? Love and fear. Some say the opposite of love is hate. But we believe fear is the opposite of love because fear fuels the forces of hate that cause us to build walls rather than open doors.

Once again, the President of the United States has fueled the fears of many by making a speech from the Oval Office—a setting normally reserved for presidents to deliver solemn news to the country rather than a stage for a policy debate on immigration—in which he once again stigmatized men, women, and children who are coming to this country to escape violence, poverty, and abuses of their human rights in their countries of origin. The Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Companions, Volunteers and Amici, as people of faith, as people committed to a charism and a spirituality that believes in the dignity and dreams of all human beings, call on all people to reject the language of fear from our politicians that fuels hate rather than reflects the values of our nation of immigrants.

Our Corporate Stance for Comprehensive Reform of the Immigration System reflects, “As Missionaries and Companions of the Precious Blood, we are compelled by our charisms of reconciliation, hospitality, and ministry of the Word…. we affirm the rights of all immigrants to be treated with dignity and respect. We call on all government leaders to work together to establish compassionate and comprehensive immigration reform legislation.”

This debate about a wall has gone on for too long and has now partially shutdown the government causing even more people to be harmed by the fearful policies of exclusion. As stated in our Corporate Stance on Immigration Reform, we encourage all people to be actively engaged in the political process that will:

  • Provide a timely path to legal status for undocumented persons in this country;
  • Preserve family unity as a cornerstone for our national immigration policy;
  • Provide for just and legal paths for immigrant laborers to come and work in the U.S.;
  • Restore due process protections to our immigration enforcement policies; and
  • Address the root causes of migration within sending countries and explore long-term solutions.

In the provincial statement we issued June 8, 2018, we stated, “The soul of our nation is at stake. When we treat refugees with contempt rather than compassion, our souls are at risk. May we reclaim the very best in ourselves and in our nation as we seek to recognize the image of God and the person of Christ in every human being and treat them with reverence, respect, and the dignity they deserve as a child of God.”

As individuals, as a community of faith, and as people sent by the blood of Christ, we will speak out against the fear that fuels hate. We call on all to “take courage” and see how the love of God compels us to be people of love who drive out all fear as we welcome those who seek refuge with compassion and hope.

With peace in the blood of Christ,

Joseph F. Nassal, C.PP.S., Provincial Director
Richard Bayuk,C.PP.S.
Thomas Welk,C.PP.S.
Ronald Will,C.PP.S.
Mark Miller,C.PP.S.