From the Interfaith Immigration Coalition (http://www.interfaithimmigration.org):
Please see the faith sign on letter below with various recommendations to President Obama and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson about how the administration should change immigration policies.
We are asking that you consider signing on to this letter as a faith leader. To sign on, please fill out this form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1LQBi-w3tyULchpbzaI-xK8W056xgFNqCSrcYsSsq9ZM/viewform by COB Wednesday, April 16th.
Dear President Obama and Secretary Johnson,
As faith leaders and faith-based organizations, we call on you to both continue to champion immigration reform and to also take administrative action to stop harmful enforcement practices, reunite families and promote community wholeness. As a diverse array of faith groups, we seek to raise concerns faced by immigrant communities that must be prioritized as the President and Congress do their part to reform our nation’s broken immigration system. We urge you to use all your resources, contacts, and the political capital necessary to ensure that Congress enacts legislation that will meet the standards set forth in the Interfaith Immigration Coalition’s 2014 Congressional Recommendations, enclosed with this letter. We also call on you to ensure that administrative policies and practices protect the dignity and rights of all people by implementing the following recommendations:
Renew and Expand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
We celebrate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. We urge the Administration to renew DACA status for those who have it, to extend the application timeline, and to implement a similar process for the family members of DACA recipients and for all undocumented immigrants who make contributions to their communities. These contributions should include those who volunteer in local organizations in their communities, those who serve or provide assistance to others in need, those who hold memberships in congregations or places of worship, those who might have criminal records in the past but who have showed a change in character and behavior, and those with criminal record or who are currently incarcerated, but who have participated in victim/offender mediation programs. Expanded DACA recipients should also include those who are unable to work due to social, physical, or emotional challenges. We also urge the Administration to include DACA recipients in Affordable Care Act implementation and to clarify that DACA recipients should not be restricted by state policies or practices from receiving drivers licenses or access to higher education.
Expand Use of Prosecutorial Discretion and Amend Civil Enforcement Priorities
We support the Administration using its prosecutorial discretion to prevent deportations, but we are dismayed that record levels of deportations continue, including valued members of our congregations and communities. Many continue to be apprehended, detained, and placed into removal proceedings, including individuals who are parenting children, who have severe mental health issues, and who are survivors of torture or persecution. We urge the Administration to more broadly and consistently utilize prosecutorial discretion to keep families together and preserve communities. Individuals should not be deemed enforcement priorities for violations that are immigration related such as re-entry; traffic related offenses; minor criminal offenses; or actions that are retroactively considered deportable offenses. In addition, individuals should not be considered “recent border crossers” or enforcement priorities if they have lived in the United States for more than 30 days, are found more than 25 miles from the border, or have U.S. children, spouses, or parents. All individual cases, including those deemed enforcement priorities, should be reconsidered if the individual has family members in the United States. The Administration should create a process for individuals to proactively apply for prosecutorial discretion. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should issue and enforce agency-wide enforcement priority guidance for all enforcement actions, including apprehensions, detainers, issuance of Notices to Appear, detention and removal orders, and should review all individuals placed in removal proceedings to determine whether they are eligible for prosecutorial discretion or another form of relief. DHS should also establish clear appeals and review processes for all deportation cases to assess why individuals did not receive prosecutorial discretion. The practice of expedited removal should be stopped altogether, or at a minimum drastically limited, as it has resulted in many individuals being removed who should have qualified for prosecutorial discretion.
End Secure Communities and 287(g) Agreements
The Secure Communities (S-Comm) program purports to identify and remove the most dangerous criminal offenders; however, tens of thousands of hardworking families have been caught up in this dragnet deportation system. We call on the Administration to end all S-Comm collaborations and 287(g) programs and to rescind all current agreements. In accordance with DHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ) positions, immigration law must be enforced by federal officials and not by local law enforcement. Collaboration between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local police compromises community policing efforts and causes victims and witnesses to fear reporting crimes, which jeopardizes community safety. States and localities should not be required to participate in immigration enforcement programs, including the forwarding of fingerprints and other biometric information to DHS. Immigrant communities and law enforcement have warned that this makes immigrant communities vulnerable to being the targets of crimes. Laws that encourage racial profiling and discrimination feed xenophobia, reduce community safety, and send an undeniable message to immigrant communities that they are not welcome. At a minimum, DHS should undertake nationwide reform of its immigration detainer policies to permit the use of detainers only when there is documented probable cause to believe that individuals are enforcement priorities, and to require supervisory headquarters review.
Reform Deportation Policies and Practices
While ICE has made progress in partnership with civil society to address concerns about the treatment of immigrants in their purview, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) continues to struggle with transparency and accountability. Establishing clear guidelines for professional conduct and a streamlined process for reporting complaints will assist the Administration to address accountability failures. The Administration should address inhumane conditions in Border Patrol short-term detention facilities, and create enforceable standards to ensure that those in CBP custody are informed of their rights, have access to counsel, are properly screened for eligibility for humanitarian relief, and are able to receive visits from their families, lawyers, and non-governmental organizations. The conditions under which CBP implements deportations should be reexamined in light of the Administration’s obligation to ensure repatriations are carried out in a way that is “safe, dignified, orderly and humane.” DHS should immediately take steps to ensure its practices do not place deported migrants at unnecessary risk of physical harm or death. Service providers and civil society groups should be part of a consultative process to assist DHS in determining appropriate locations and hours of deportations. To ensure the safety of migrants deported to Northern Mexico, DHS should inform Mexican counterparts with adequate advance notice of a planned deportation, particularly when deporting elderly, pregnant or infirm individuals; establish a uniform and effective process for determining familial relationships to ensure that family members are not deported to separate ports of entry; end the practice of deporting migrants without their identification documents, money, cell-phones and other belongings; implement deportations during daylight hours only; and refrain from deporting migrants to towns experiencing public order emergencies or where no migrant shelter or services are available.
Reform Detention Policies and End the Detention Bed Mandate
The federal government currently requires that 34,000 immigrant are detained on a daily basis. While we appreciate the Administration’s reduction of detention beds to 30,461 in its FY15 budget, we urge the Administration to eliminate the bed quota altogether. Immigration officials should never have to meet an arrest or detention quota and they should utilize alternatives to detention whenever possible. At a cost of $119 per day to detain one immigrant, the bed quota fuels the mass deportation system while needlessly wasting government resources in an era of fiscal cuts. We encourage the Administration to expedite the release of individuals from detention who pose no risk to the community and expand the use of community-based alternatives to detention, which are more humane and cost effective. For individuals who must be held in custody, ICE standards must ensure safety, dignity, and fairness and must be enforceable. We urge the Administration to fully implement the 2011 ICE Performance-Based Detention Standards at all facilities that detain immigrants, and to terminate contractual relationships with facilities that refuse to integrate these standards. We likewise recommend that the Administration integrate proposed Civil Immigration Detention Standards adopted by the American Bar Association’s General Assembly in 2012 to guide the transition to a truly civil immigration detention system. In addition, the Administration should establish a clear review process of detainer policies to reduce erroneous detainers and increase oversight on individuals who can issue detainers. We also urge the Administration to reexamine the Bureau of Prison’s use of private prison contractors, as this has led to lower standards and less accountability.
Expand Implementation of the Rule on Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers
We applaud the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) rule change to allow immediate relatives of U.S. citizens to apply for unlawful presence waivers in the United States before returning to their home countries for final visa processing. We encourage its continued and generous implementation and also encourage the Administration to expand eligibility criteria to immediate relatives of Lawful Permanent Residents and other priority relatives of U.S. citizens and expand and consistently apply the definition of “extreme hardship.”
Respect Department of Labor Actions and Parental Rights
ICE has continued to conduct I-9 Audits at the same time as labor disputes, potentially infringing on the labor rights established in the National Labor Relations Act. We urge DHS to honor and implement the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the DOL fully and consistently. ICE should continue implementing the new parental rights and segregation policies, including regular input from stakeholders on progress. ICE should also continue to operate its community outreach operations, including the helpline. These are important opportunities for the agency to hear directly from the community and the detained population regarding how its policies and procedures are affecting individuals.
Increase Opposition to Anti-Immigrant State Policies
We applaud the Department of Justice for recognizing that Arizona’s SB 1070 and similar legislation in South Carolina, Georgia, Utah, Indiana and Alabama are preempted by federal immigration law and therefore unconstitutional. We urge the Administration to continue to aggressively challenge anti-immigrant state laws and practices. The DHS decision to not collaborate with Arizona or Alabama in the enforcement of SB 1070 or HB 56 has been an important policy stance. However, we urge DHS, including ICE and CBP, to more consistently refuse to collaborate in the deportation of individuals identified through these unconstitutional anti-immigrant state laws. In addition, we urge the Administration to promote pro-immigrant state policies that are not federally preempted, such as California’s TRUST Act, which are consistent with the Administration’s stated policies.
Prioritize Funding to Promote Immigrant Integration and Protect Vulnerable Populations
We call for a faithful budget that will find savings by reducing funding for immigration detention, S-Comm, the current employment verification program, and all enforcement programs that separate families and create fear in communities. Those resources should be redirected to fund welcoming initiatives, translation services, citizenship programs, visa adjudications, tax credits, education regarding anti-human trafficking efforts, refugee protection and resettlement, community-based alternatives to detention, the Legal Orientation Program for immigrant detainees, and direct services for immigrants, including healthcare coverage for DACA recipients. We also urge the Administration to reduce the cost of applying for citizenship, as we should encourage rather than prevent immigrants from becoming U.S. citizens.
We stand ready to support the Administration in exploring and implementing all of these reforms, as they would improve the lives of our community members and reunite separated families. Combined with legislative reform that will create a path to citizenship, these reforms will begin to rectify the many problems caused by our broken immigration system.