President Barack Obama told activists he would consider ways to ease the effects of strict enforcement as frustration grows over the lack of progress on immigration reform.
Immigration and the Church
"The U.S.-Mexico border is our Lampedusa. Migrants in this hemisphere try to reach it, but often die in the attempt," Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo said.
Catholic parishes are called to build communion with immigrants and newcomers so people unite in faith rather than solely because of their cultural backgrounds, said the bishop of Brooklyn, N.Y., who has worked for 38 years to improve immigrant relations.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, former executive director of Migration and Refugee Services for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told a conference Monday on the integration of immigrants into the Catholic church that in U.S. parishes, immigrants and longtime members can learn from each other if they are open to doing so.
The U.S. government deported about 369,000 immigrants, including a number of Filipinos, during fiscal year 2013, according to new statistics from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released last month, showing a 10 percent drop from the previous year -- the first since President Barack Obama took office in 2008.
Nearly 60 percent (216,810) of the total deported immigrants, the year-end report showed, had been previously convicted of a crime.
Impoverished immigrants facing deportation in New York City can now have court-appointed counsel on their side for the first time in this nation's history.
The tents on the southeast corner of the National Mall were nearly empty this afternoon, with the activists inside receiving visitors quietly and with little fanfare.
Just two blocks west of the U.S. Capitol, those inside have pledged to a daily fast until Congress passes comprehensive immigration reform.
Organizers of the campaign, called "Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship," have set up visits to those fasting by members of Congress, prominent organizers, and faith leaders.
As an icy wind whipped the sides of a packed tent, five activists committed themselves Tuesday to fast from food and drink and to camp in front of the U.S. Capitol until Congress passes comprehensive immigration reform.
"I know that there are going to be difficult days ahead of me," said Eliseo Medina from the Service Employees International Union. "I know that going without food will not be easy and I know that I will suffer physical hunger.
Passing comprehensive immigration reform is "a matter of great moral urgency that cannot wait any longer for action," New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan told House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a letter Thursday.
Keeping undocumented immigrants "as a permanent underclass of workers who are unable to assert their rights or enjoy the fruits of their labor is a stain on the soul of the nation," said the cardinal, who will step down as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at the group's meeting next week.
The last time Congress attempted a full-blown fix of immigration law in 1986, the major accomplishments were that a few million people won legal status and some employment verification systems were created, but the legislation proved inadequate to repair systemic problems, according to panelists at a migration law and policy conference.
President Barack Obama issued a rallying cry Thursday to advocates of immigration reform, telling them to press Congress to pass a bill on the issue before the end of the year.
"This is the moment we should finally be able to get the job done," Obama said during a statement at the White House, surrounded by advocates of reform. "It is time. Let's go get it done."