FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 8, 2017. Philadelphia, PA. – Esperanza has actively participated in the national push for comprehensive immigration reform for close to two decades.
We are concerned that the recent and ongoing actions of the new presidential administration may be overly harsh and unnecessary for the accomplishment of goals related to maintaining our national security. We remain committed to dialogue with government about alternative measures to deal with immigration reform. In light of these events, we reiterate several relevant position statements that have been included in our advocacy platform since 2006.
We urge the elected leadership of the United States to enact measures that will address our nation’s immigration system sensibly and humanely:
Our Immigration Laws and Enforcement System Should Be Comprehensively Fixed
It is Esperanza’s position that our existing immigration system is broken and needs to be overhauled through comprehensive legislative reform.
Short of comprehensive legislation to fix the broken system, current laws should be enforced in targeted ways. Specifically, our enforcement resources should not be spent breaking up hardworking families who are contributing to our economy and pursuing pathways to citizenship. Instead, those resources should prioritize public safety and focus on those individuals who pose a genuine threat to our nation’s security. Our resources should never be used to target and undermine the legal temporary and permanent residents of our country who hold valid visas or green cards, and enforcement should never result in profiling based on religion, ethnicity or nationality.
We believe measures taken to dramatically grow the “deportation force,” to sweepingly target the undocumented for deportation, and to bar immigrants from specific countries of origin, are deeply misguided and destructive to our economy, our national security, and the fabric of our society.
Provisions Should Be Made for “Dreamers”
Esperanza strongly supports the bipartisan BRIDGE (Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy) Act, which would provide temporary relief from deportation to the more than 750,000 “Dreamers” in this country.
We have seen first-hand how the lives of immigrant youth in our communities have been transformed by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was begun in 2012. We have witnessed DACA recipients open their own businesses, become teachers, and join the armed forces in order to serve and protect our country. The program provides protection from deportation for undocumented young people who were brought to our country as children, as well as the opportunity to obtain lawful employment, pay taxes, and increase their assets. DACA has enabled Dreamers to become more productive members of society, participate openly in their communities, and become fully integrated into the American economy.
There is a very real possibility that DACA will be rescinded under the new administration. Eliminating DACA without passing the BRIDGE Act would force these young people back into the shadows, fearful that the information shared in their applications will be used to deport them. It would be devastating for these young people and a loss for our country.
The BRIDGE Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), is a first step. DACA and the protections in this measure are temporary substitutes for the more comprehensive immigration reform that is still needed to fix our country’s broken immigration system.
Immigration Enforcement Must Remain Solely a Federal Responsibility
Enforcement is and must remain the sole responsibility of the federal government, NOT state and local law enforcement.
Attempts to force state and local law enforcement agencies to collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under threats of loss of federal funding are harmful to the security of our neighborhoods. Local law enforcement collaboration with ICE would result in a higher risk of unlawful racial profiling and the violation of due process for those who are detained. It would also threaten hundreds of extremely successful community policing programs that depend on community volunteer participation and a trusting and collaborative relationship between residents and police, resulting in the severe diminishment of the health and safety of some of our nation’s poorest communities where energy should be focused on strengthening, not severing, relations with local law enforcement. ICE’s function must remain separate and distinct from the function of state and local law enforcement agencies.
Border Security Measures Must Be Common-Sense and Humane
The Hispanic community cares about border security. Although a small fraction of undocumented residents pose a threat to communities’ peace and safety, those that do typically hide inside Hispanic communities first, taking advantage of the vulnerability of the undocumented and their family members who are too afraid to call the police. Until laws are enacted to allow the undocumented to earn legal status, those who pose a threat will continue to hide in Hispanic and other immigrant communities, and law-abiding American citizens will be hampered by both law enforcement and those who break the law.
However, increased border security measures must be sensible, effective, and humane. The safety and security of American citizens and legal residents can be protected through carefully considered and rationally implemented border protection measures.
Esperanza is a national community-based organization founded in 1986 by Rev. Luis Cortes & the Hispanic Clergy of Philadelphia & Vicinity with the biblical mandate to serve and advocate for “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40). Esperanza’s mission is to strengthen, empower, and advocate for Hispanic communities, focusing on education, economic development, and asset-building, both in our home community in Philadelphia and around the country through our national network of clergy and Hispanic and/or faith-based nonprofits. Over the past 30 years, Esperanza has grown from a small 20-person operation to more than 350 employees and a $40 million organization.
Esperanza Immigration Legal Services is a subsidiary of Esperanza that provides direct legal services, advocacy, and community education for underserved immigrants and their families so they have the opportunity to contribute to and participate in American society. EILS is located in the heart of a low-income Latino neighborhood in North Philadelphia and offers convenient, affordable and culturally accessible services to the most underserved immigrants. Since its founding, EILS has provided legal services to over 800 low-income immigrants. EILS has also served over 1,500 immigrants in educational workshops, has achieved over 360 positive immigration remedies, and has helped naturalize nearly 200 new American citizens.