I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matthew 25:35)
Our faith compels us to welcome the stranger with love and compassion, regardless of place of birth, religion or ethnicity. And yet our country is requiring asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while they wait for their cases to be heard here in the US. This puts them at risk of the very harm they are fleeing. They are facing the risk of homelessness, disease, assault, kidnapping, rape and murder.
On Nov. 14, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) quietly proposed drastic changes in its fee schedule that disproportionately increased fees and eliminated fee waivers for the benefit categories most commonly used by low- and moderate-income immigrants. This leaves essential immigration benefits accessible primarily to the affluent. These unwarranted and cruel changes result in financial hardship for immigrant and mixed-status families. They create new and unnecessary problems for immigrants delaying or losing immigration status due to financial considerations. They will make the poorest of people more dependent on debt to finance their applications. They will make it harder for immigrants to get qualified legal assistance resulting in difficult and inefficient USCIS processing and adjudication.
If the proposed fee increases are adopted, this will be the first time in U.S. history that those seeking freedom from unsafe countries will have to pay to seek asylum here. The proposed imposition of a fee to file for asylum — in any amount — is unconscionable. Clients seeking asylum are men, women and children who would never leave home if their lives were not in danger. Establishing a fee to file for asylum is morally bankrupt and in violation of national and international norms. The proposed fee also flaunts our American values of compassion and the teachings of our faith.
Pope Francis speaking to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said of immigrants: “Perhaps it will not be easy for you to look into their soul; perhaps you will be challenged by their diversity, but know that they also possess resources meant to be shared. So, do not be afraid to welcome them.” “Offer them the warmth of the love of Christ and you will unlock the mystery of the heart…”
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops in its document for the election year ahead, Faithful Citizenship, tells us: “…while the common good embraces all, those who are weak, vulnerable and most in need deserve preferential concern. A basic moral test for our society is how we treat the most vulnerable in our midst.”
The Dominican Center joins all people of faith in decrying unjust governmental immigration policies. We stand in prayer, asking God for justice as we welcome the stranger, the refugee, the vulnerable asylum seeker.
Attracta Kelly, OP
Immigration lawyer and director of the Adrian Dominican Sisters
Immigration Assistance Office
Art used with permission
The Dominican Center celebrates with the Catholic Church, National Migration Week
January 5-11, 2020.