Bending the Arc
"the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." - MLK
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Note: The ideas and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author's and should not be ascribed to the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes or its members. On August 5, 2021, we archived old blog posts. You can find the archive by clicking here.
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Link between forced migration and human trafficking
U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT) and the National Advocacy of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, faith-based networks that work to end human trafficking, deplore the increase in human trafficking in the United States and around the world, some of which results from unprecedented forced migration, and is exacerbated by United States’ law and policy.
At a time when a record number of people are on the move, the United States is woefully underprepared to address the threat human traffickers pose to those forced to leave their homes.
While there is widespread consensus on the urgent need to combat human trafficking, there is little understanding of systemic, root causes, like forced migration, and the need to address the U.S. policies that may inadvertently facilitate the exploitation of migrants and immigrants by traffickers.
Join a 60-minute virtual briefing on June 14 at 2 p.m. that will explore the dangerous link between forced migration and human trafficking. Hear first-hand accounts from a migrant survivor of human trafficking and women religious who accompany migrants facing dangers posed by human traffickers. Listen as they share their experiences and use their expertise to illustrate the dangerous connection between forced migration and human trafficking.
Title 42 was lifted last week. What’s happening now?
The Asylum Ban that went into effect May 11 has two components: a transit ban and an entry ban.
- The transit ban is essentially identical to those put in place by President Trump, which courts deemed illegal. It bars access to asylum for anyone who passed through another country on their way to the U.S. and did not request and get denied asylum there first.
- The entry ban bars access to asylum for people who enter the U.S. between ports of entry, despite this being a legal way to reach U.S. territory to seek protection.
Who does the ban apply to?
The ban applies to anyone who has passed through a third country on their way to the U.S. unless they present at the port of entry at an appointment scheduled through the CBPOne app. It can apply to anyone, but is likely to inflict disproportionate suffering on Black, Indigenous, LGBTQIA+, and disabled folks, as well as pregnant people and families fleeing persecution. It also applies to anyone who crosses the border between ports of entry.
What is the CBPOne app?
The CBPOne app is the only way that people can access the asylum process now that Title 42 is lifted. It is a phone app people must use to schedule an appointment to present at a port of entry to begin the asylum process.
However, any system that relies on an app to determine who has access to asylum and who doesn’t is inherently unfair and discriminatory. To get an appointment, one must have a strong, reliable internet connection; access to and be able to navigate a smartphone; be able not only to read, but to do so in one of the only four languages the app offers: English, Spanish, Haitian Kreyol, or Russian. They also must be lucky; there are exponentially more people seeking appointments than there are appointments available. It’s like trying to buy the winning lottery ticket, except it’s for your chance at life-saving protections.
How are some groups responding?
The Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project (FIRRP) provides free legal and social services to detained adults and children. They have a Border Action Team on the ground in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico to help people understand the new band. The FIRRP Communications Team partnered with the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS) and Welcome with Dignity to create resources to help migrants navigate interactions with the media so that people awaiting entry who are approached by reporters know their rights and how to protect themselves if sharing their stories.
Sister Eileen Mahony, CSA, a volunteer aiding asylum seekers (guests) at Casa Alitas in Tucson, reports her firsthand experience, stating that, "on Friday, the day after Title 42 was lifted, 1,300 guests were received. On Tuesday, the 16th, 1,474 guests were received. Both days some were transferred to shelters in Phoenix due to the numbers. None have been “street released” to fend for themselves, something Casa Alitas aims to avoid. It should be noted that Casa Alitas only receives asylum-seekers who are accepted by Border Patrol. Many seekers are denied entrance due to the rules of the new ban."
Sister Eileen further describes, “the majority (approximately 60%) are still single males from India speaking Punjabi or Hindi. The second largest group which is anticipated to grow from its current approximately 20% is from Mauritania in northwest Africa speaking either Arabic or French. Today about 20% were Spanish-speaking families with young children from Chiapas, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia or Brazil. The volunteers and staff are best able to communicate with the Latin Americans. (For me this is a joy!)
"After being welcomed they are given water and food. Then they are Covid-screend or tested. Next they go through an intake (registration) process. Those individuals and their families who test Covid positive go to a waiting area to spend their quarantine in a special hotel. Those Covid negative enter the welcome center and begin to contact their families or sponsors. Those who make same-day flight arrangements go directly to the airport. Those waiting to travel in 1-3 days stay at one of Casa Alitas' shelters. Single males stay in the center of the current welcome center which has 300+ cots. Families or single women go to one of the hotels. All these sites have staff to assist the guests with food, clothing, travel plans. The current large welcome center has special services including medical (in which I serve), support for victims of violence, and persons speaking indigenous languages.
"Most of the guests are quite overwhelmed when they arrive but fairly quickly begin to relax after speaking with their families and receiving support and services at Casa Alitas.
"To serve this group is both a challenge and a blessing. To repeat, all these guests have official immigration papers allowing them to enter the US and begin their asylum process.”
What can I do?
- Call your Senators, Representatives, and State Legislators. Make sure they know that protecting asylum seekers and immigrants is important to you. Ask them to focus on building a humane, fair, and dignified asylum system and to oppose Senate Bill 1473 and any other legislation that would end asylum as we know it.
- Talk to your friends and family about this damaging rule. It betrays core American values: freedom and safety from persecution, welcoming those who seek protection, and the belief that immigrants make our country better.
- Volunteer and donate to organizations working directly at the border, including:
CSA Sister prepares for hundreds of asylum-seeking guests daily
The Title 42 expulsion policy that was put in place in March 2020 to bar immigrants from entering the U.S., including those seeking asylum, will end on May 11, 2023. The Biden administration is making plans to send an additional 1,500 active-duty troops to the US-Mexico border in anticipation of an influx of migrants when the Title 42 public health authority expires next week. The troops are to serve in administrative roles and not perform any law enforcement function.
We pray they are as kind and welcoming as the staff and volunteers at Casa Alitas in Tucson.
At the border and ready to welcome and serve, Sister Eileen Mahoney, CSA shares the reality of her mission there: “Casa Alitas, the center for asylum-seekers in Tucson sponsored by Catholic Community Services, currently has been receiving almost 500 new guests daily. Guests are brought by Border Patrol with official papers stating they have a right to be in the U.S. and apply for asylum.
The program began five years ago to assist primarily Central Americans arriving through the desert. Because of Title 42 restrictions as well as new limitations on permission enacted in December for guests from Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela and Nicaragua, the current arriving guest population is from different areas. A few people with infants or little children still arrive from southern Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador and Columbia. Most of these come by bus rather than trekking the desert as the earlier ones did. Some from Columbia arrive having traversed the treacherous Darien Pass into Panama. For a few months about 80% of the arrivees have been single males from India, primarily Punjabis and Hindis. Since last month, guests have been arriving from Mauritania in northwest Africa speaking either Arabic or French. Many on our team of more than 800 volunteers as well as all the staff speak Spanish and some Portuguese. The current population of arrivals from Africa and the Middle East reveal our cultural and linguistic limitations.
Casa Alitas anticipates receiving 1,500 new arrivals daily mid-May with the lifting of Title 42. In anticipation, the Welcome Center has been relocated to a large former call center. This center has 150 cots in the center of the building for single males planning to leave in the morning. The facility has service areas all around the periphery of the center. The previous welcome center is now used for guests who have special medical or language needs and also for those who have lost their sponsors and need to stay longer. Three hotels are used for families awaiting money from their families to travel. One of the hotels is for individuals or families who are Covid positive or present with other communicable diseases. Every guest is Covid tested, assisted with travel and clothing while being fed and housed. All with health concerns are assessed and assisted to be able to travel safely. For ongoing medical/health needs, they receive referrals for clinics as their destination.This center has received more than 200,00 guests and not one has been "released to the street" without assistance.”
Sister Eileen ends to say, “The challenges in serving are overwhelming - as are the blessings!”
James Place Ministries' Aid to Immigrants
Sister Christi Ann Laudolff talked with Kate Archer Kent on Wisconsin Public Radio on the morning of May 2, 2023 to share insights about her work and what inspires her to do it. You can listen to the interview here: https://www.wpr.org/listen/2097296
In the Epistle of St. James, there is a line that says it doesn’t do much good to say to someone, “Goodbye and good luck; keep warm and well fed,” if you do nothing to help the person. This is a foundation of the James Place Ministries of the Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, WI. One of the James Place ministries is the James Place Immigration Services with offices in Waukesha and the south side of Milwaukee.
When I arrived in Milwaukee searching for a volunteer ministry, I happened upon James Place through an online volunteer site. I called and much to my surprise and relief, people at James Place were doing what I had done at We Are One Family in Bisbee, Arizona. In both places, we provide people with immigration resources at an affordable rate for the poor.
James Place in Waukesha meets many DACA people who are renewing their status until a permanent solution is legislated by congress. In Milwaukee, our main service is to refugees of Afghanistan, Syria, Myanmar, (formerly Burma), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Many other agencies have helped with the resettlement of the refugees and their families. After one year in the United States, the refugees can apply for lawful permanent residence. Four years later, if they meet the civics, history, and language requirements, they can apply for naturalization and become citizens here.
As of January 6, people from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela can apply for a two year period of parole in the United States, due to upheaval in their own countries. Many of these people have also graced our office.
When people come to James Place, our mission is to build a relationship with them and to be a presence of Christ to the people. Hopefully, our presence and demeanor will preach more forcefully than anything we say.
There may be immigrants or refugees in your locale who need a variety of services. Check with your local service agencies and churches to find ways that you may be able to help people at a very vulnerable time in their lives.
DHS Center for Countering Human Trafficking Releases FY22 Annual Report
As a global leader in the fight against human trafficking, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security works to end sex trafficking and forced labor through a wide range of efforts including victim identification and assistance, criminal investigations, civil enforcement actions, intelligence and analysis, training and public education, and external outreach.
On March 28, 2023, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released the second Center for Countering Human Trafficking (CCHT) Annual Report, outlining the Department’s achievements in combatting human trafficking during the previous fiscal year (FY).
The Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes stands in solidarity with the victims of human trafficking and took a corporate stance against the trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation in January 2007. The CSA Associate Community affirmed this stance in November 2022. We find the DHS report encouraging in that combating trafficking is a top priority of theirs. We hope all will take some time to review the findings in this 26-page report.
Sisters and staff at the Motherhouse and Nazareth Court and Center participated in #WearBlueDay 1/11/23 to help bring awareness to human trafficking.
Fond du Lac, WI 54937-8158
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Many thanks, Sister Eileen, for the wonderful work you are doing. It has to be overwhelming to help the enormous numbers of fellow human beings who are in such great need. May our Heavenly Father bless you and keep you strong.