Immigration update

August 29, 2019

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Stories of hate, stories of hope

El Paso

A cruel mix of gun violence and anti-immigrant vitriol resulted in the deaths of 22 people in El Paso, Texas, on August 3 at the hands of a shooter clearly targeting Hispanics. In addition to the tragic loss of lives, the shooting struck fear into the hearts of communities already reeling from increased immigration enforcement and anti-immigrant rhetoric. Reports have noted troubling similarities between the shooter’s manifesto and President Trump’s language around an immigrant “invasion” and chants at a recent Trump rally to “send her back,” referring to four congresswomen, including one originally from Somalia.

Catholic leaders protest treatment of migrant children on Capitol Hill. MCC photo/Tammy Alexander.

Stories of hope

NY Times: ICE came to take their neighbor. They said no. 

NBC News: Seesaw across the border wall

Roll Call: Catholic nuns, priests protesting migrant child treatment arrested on Capitol Hill

Politico: All migrant kids moved out of last large temporary shelter (Homestead, Florida, shelter closed)

Bloomberg: SunTrust is latest bank to halt financing of private prisons

Forbes: Major hotel franchises decline to house detained migrants for ICE

“Small as this story might appear to be when balanced against the great travesty of American immigration policy today, it nevertheless gives us hope. It is the story of David and Goliath, of Hansel and Gretel, of Robin Hood. It is the story of weakness defeating strength. It reminds us, in this cynical age, of what is still good in us, of what we are yet capable of, even against great odds.”

— Margaret Renkl in the New York Times, of the neighbors who refused to let ICE arrest an undocumented member of their community.

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Additional resources: 

Schedule a meeting with your legislators while they are in their home districts (tips)

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  • Next recess: Sep. 30 – Oct. 14

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Local stories

Ohio and North Carolina: Ordered deported, then sent a $497,777 fine from ICE (Columbus Mennonite Church and Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship)

North CarolinaCooper vetoes immigration bill focused on North Carolina sheriffs

Kansas: Border tour spurs supply drive

Pennsylvania: Franconia Conference: Standing in the gap at the border and at home | York Daily Record:His Mennonite ancestors fled persecution to York. Now their farm is an immigration jail.

Send us your local stories and events.

“Mennonites once knew what it was like to be told to love America or leave it. They heard the phrase during wars they refused to fight or pay for. In the days when they still spoke German, neighbors taunted them to go back where they came from.”

– Paul Schrag, editor, Mennonite World Review


MCC articles

Other Anabaptist perspectives

News & resources


Immigration raids on seven food processing plants in Mississippi resulted in the arrest of 680 workers. It was the first day of school for most of the affected communities and many children came home to find one or both parents gone. The Trump administration is expanding its “expedited removal” policy. Previously, the policy allowed undocumented immigrants found within 100 miles of a land border who were in the U.S. for 14 days or less to be quickly deported with a court hearing. Now, the policy will apply to the entire country and will affect those who cannot prove they have been in the U.S. for at least two years. An internal government report regarding the suicide of an immigrant detainee found that staff at the detention center did not follow proper procedures. Human Right Watch has asked a federal judge to direct government officials to immediately cease force-feeding three hunger-striking detainees.



“Our history as dissenters, and sometimes unwelcome foreigners, gives Mennonites an extra reason to defend those who are the targets of such slanders today and to assist immigrants fleeing violence and poverty in Central America.”

— John Powell in Mennonite World Review

July and August brought many policy changes related to asylum from the Trump administration, including a  new “asylum ban” that would force immigrants to first apply for asylum in any country they had transited through (temporarily halted by a federal court for those arriving California and Arizona), a new policy to detain children indefinitely and a preliminary agreement with Guatemala to force migrants traveling through that country to apply for asylum there (the administration is seeking a similar deal with Panama to return asylum seekers from Africa and Asia to Panamanian soil if they traveled through there en route to the U.S.).

More than 30,000 migrants seeking asylum in the U.S have been sent to Mexico as part of the Migrant Protection Protocols or “Remain in Mexico” plan. At least 2,200 have returned to Central America before their court hearing dates, likely due to dangerous living conditions and a lack of shelter space or employment in Mexican border towns. A bill that would undermine protections for asylum seekers, including children, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee along party lines.



“I hear an awful lot about security, but not much about compassion, generosity, or trust in God. It seems that the richest nation in the world has grown insecure, proud and calloused.”

— Dave Dietz in His Mennonite ancestors fled persecution to York.
Now their farm is an immigration jail
 in the York Daily Record

The U.S. Supreme Court allowed construction to start on sections of border barriers using $2.5 billion in military funds. Officials have reportedly decided to delay erecting barriers in a number of environmentally sensitive areas until a U.S. district court makes its ruling on the underlying case (the administration’s own Fish and Wildlife Service says wall construction will harm many threatened and endangered species).

Construction preparations have begun in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona and in southern New Mexico. Funds approved by Congress for Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019 are already being used to construct barriers in Texas, including in Starr Countywhich could be completely walled off from Mexico. Proposed construction could cut across the San Pedro River and through a route used by the Tohono O’odham for their Salt Pilgrimage.

As debates continue over Fiscal Year 2020 spending bills, Senate Republican appropriators have proposed taking $5 billion from a labor, health and education bill to use for border wall construction. Meanwhile, a Homeland Security spending bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee contained no funding for border walls, setting up a clash with the Senate and White House.



The Trump administration has revealed a new “public charge” policy, to take effect in October, that would deny green cards to individuals who make use of certain public benefits, or who are deemed to be at risk of needing benefits in the future. Laurel Leff at The Conversation notes that, in the 1930s, about 300,000 Jewish refugees were denied entry into the U.S. because of a similar policy.



Root causes: Common Dreams: How the U.S. created the Central American immigration crisis

U- and T-visas: America’s Voice: New Trump administration policy makes it easier to deport victims of, and witnesses to, crimes: The exact opposite of what is needed now to ensure public safety and justice

Refugees: NBC News: Trump admin weighs letting states, cities deny entry to refugees approved for resettlement in U.S. |Politico: Trump officials pressing to slash refugee admissions to zero next year

Judicial independence: The Hill: Trump administration mulls decertifying immigration judges’ union

Upcoming events

Oct. 21-25: Advanced Immigration Law Training

Nov. 3-18: MCC Bolivia Motorcycle Learning Tour

Nov. 5-16: MCC migration learning tour to Honduras and GuatemalaImmigration resourcesInvite MCC staff to speak

Update created August 29, 2019, by Tammy Alexander, Senior Legislative Associate for Domestic Affairs.

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