Archive for Immigration

DWN Report Spotlights Influence of Private Industry on Immigration Detention

Note: Article taken from DWN email.

As the largest for-profit prison company in the country, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), prepared for its annual shareholders meeting, a report released by the Detention Watch Network (DWN) shed new light on the growing influence of the private prison industry on the immigration detention system.

Drawn from a variety of sources, including the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Reading Room, and the Federal Lobbying Disclosure Act Database, the report reveals the companies most heavily invested in the business of immigration detention – CCA, The GEO Group Inc., and the Management and Training Corporation – and suggests increased lobbying activity over the last decade, both in terms of dollars spent and government entities targeted.

“For years, private prison firms have played a critical role in shaping public policy around immigration detention, pursuing the bottom line at the expense of basic civil rights and tax payer dollars,” said Emily Tucker, Director of Policy and Advocacy at DWN. “This report highlights deep corporate investment in the detention business, raising concerns about how the corporate profit-motive is fueling the expansion of the detention system as a whole.”

According to research by DWN, corporations have increasingly devoted resources over the last decade to lobbying for policies and programs that will increase their opportunities to do business with the government. Of the five corporations with ICE contracts for which official federal lobbying records are currently available, the total expenditure on lobbying for 1999-2009 was $20,432,000, with CCA ($18,002,000) and GEO ($2,065,000) as the top two spenders. Lobbying efforts targeted a wide range of government entities, indicating a comprehensive strategy for influencing policy and legislation.

Both CCA and GEO have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, as a lack of transparency and accountability has led to multiple cases of abuse and mismanagement in their facilities, resulting in the termination of contracts in a few recent cases.

“ICE has called for sweeping changes in the immigration detention system,” said Tucker. “Yet they continue to partner with private prison firms that are part of the problem. We hope this research inspires further exploration into the relationship between prison corporations and the government at all levels. We need to reduce our dependence on detention and begin putting human rights over profits.”

Go here to read the full report.

For recent coverage of the report, visit the following:  The Latin American Herald tribune; The San Antonio Current; Houston Press; The Colorado Independent



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An Immigrant Mother Speaks from Her Heart

NOTE: The following words were written by a 29 year-old woman who was taken by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents from her place of employment of about 4 months.  She is still in detention, and wrote this account in the hope of helping to change minds and hearts of people in the U.S.  This woman has been visited by a Sister of Mercy who has inspired and organized others to visit immigration detainees.

“In 2009 I emigrated to the United States with my 7 year-old son.  I hoped to move forward and get him an education that he couldn’t get in El Salvador.  But my dream didn’t happen.  Unfortunately, on March 9 [2010] when I was at work immigration came and picked up 18 people.  I was one of them.

I still cannot erase the anguish and torment that I lived on my journey to this country, and now I am closed in a jail as though I’m a criminal.  I have been nearly five months without seeing my son, and I am in the deportation process.

It is because of looking for a better future for our children and for food that they treat us as criminals.  It is painful to return to El Salvador and see the end of my son’s education.  Thanks be to God for giving me such an intelligent boy, but in El Salvador because of the poverty there is no way for him to get an education.  I ask God to change the hearts of the people who want to get Hispanics out of this country.  I think they believe we have come to rob them, when we have come to work to no longer be hungry, and to help our families.

It’s hard when I remember what I lived through with my son.  I remember that every night when we were on the journey to the United States he would ask me, “Mom, are we almost there?” I remember him saying “Mom, I’m hungry” and I would comfort him by saying, “We’re almost there and then you’ll get to eat whatever you want.”  My heart ached and my eyes were full of tears to know my son was hungry and I had nothing to give him to eat.

Now my son is eight years old and asks me, “Mom, why don’t they like Hispanics?”

I just ask God that some day the law will change and Hispanic families will be able to live without fear that any day they might be separated.  That has happened for so many families, and I pray that their dreams not be shattered the way it happened for me.”

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Immigration Policy Should Reflect Our Best Values

By Jude A. Huntz, Director of the Human Rights Office, Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

“Immigrants don’t want to learn English.”

“Immigrants don’t pay taxes”

“Immigrants increase the crime rate.”

“Immigrants take jobs away from Americans”

“Immigrants are a drain on the U.S. economy.”

“Illegal immigrants are a burden on the U.S. health care system.”

Americans have been using these generalizations for 150 years to stigmatize members of every ethnic group that has traveled to these shores seeking a better life for themselves and their children.  Anti-immigrant rhetoric is as false today as it has been throughout our history.  Here’s the truth about immigrants:

  • English proficiency among today’s immigrants is no different than for previous arrivals.  Ninety-one percent of second-generation immigrants are fluent or near fluent English speakers, according to the Pew Hispanic Forum.
  • Between one-half and three-quarters of undocumented immigrants pay state and federal taxes, and they contribute $7 billion per year to the Social Security Trust Fund.  They also pay sales tax like everyone, according to the Immigration Policy Center.
  • Immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans.  From 1994 to 2005, illegal immigration population doubled while violent crime dropped 34 percent and property crime dropped 32percent.  In fact, first-generation immigrants are 45 percent less likely to commit violent crimes than Americans, according to the Immigration Policy Center.
  • Immigrants improve the economy of the United States.  In every instance of dramatic immigration movements to the U.S., the economy grew and the nation prospered.  Immigrants today fill low-wage jobs in our nation, which requires more laborers than ever before, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.  What is more, the average immigrant pays a net of $80,000 more in taxes than he or she receives in government services.
  • Finally, immigrants access health care less frequently than Americans because they are in better overall health.  In Los Angeles County, for example, total health care spending for undocumented immigrants was 6 percent of total costs, even though they comprise 12 percent of the region’s population, the Rand Corporation reports.

Our nation needs a revised immigration policy that protects families, provides immigrants with a path toward citizenship and respects their inherent dignity.

In a nation that reveres the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, we would do well to reflect on the fact that every major figure in those scriptures was an immigrant:  Abraham, Moses, Jesus.  The biblical text commands us to provide the ancient virtue of hospitality and to welcome the stranger in our midst.

Let us work to create an immigration policy that reflects our best values as Americans and people of faith.

This article was first published in the Kansa City STAR and is included here with permission of the author.

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On Michael Steele

By Michael Humphrey

Much was made of Michael Steele’s African-American heritage when he was elected the new chairman of the Republican National Committee last month – and for good reason. The fact that the President of the United States and the head of the opposition party are both men who would not have had full citizenship in the very recent past is cause to celebrate. It is not a sign of color-blindness, as some have suggested, but it is a sign our vision of justice is improving.

Less was made of Steele’s Catholicism, though this may shape his leadership at least as much as his race. I had the chance to interview him about his faith and politics at the Republican National Convention last fall. I came away from the meeting feeling like he was a tenacious and intelligent defender of both.

I did not come away feeling that Steele would drastically change the content of the party’s character, no matter what level of leadership he attained. (It was clear he would be moving up.) Steele is adamantly opposed to Roe v. Wade, he favors tax cuts for businesses and capital gains, he believes in the right to bear arms, he says invading Iraq was right, even without weapons of mass destruction and coined the phrase, “drill baby drill” just hours after I interviewed him. Party line stuff.

The question that Republicans want Steele to answer, however, is not how he identifies with the Republican base but how he can get young and non-white voters to view his party in a new light. According to exit polls, President Obama’s 68 percent youth vote won him the election. Obama also won a large majority of Hispanic votes. Both were won over by the president’s depiction of a country that valued justice over just desserts.

Party chairmen, unfortunately, are judged much like football coaches — by their winning percentage. The winners are visionaries; the losers are shoved out of the limelight.

Steele should overlook that reality these next four years. He should instead focus on giving his country choices that do not re-create the same old divisions: military aggression vs. peace brokering, bootstrap self-reliance vs. compassionate collectivism, vengeance vs. rehabilitation, business vs. the environment.

Steele has the mind, the opportunity and the Catholic training to change this argument in a fundamental way. I know enough Republicans, many of whom were as proud as Democrats to see Obama take the oath of office, who want to eschew the stereotype that their party is one of myopic self-interest.

The common ground is simple enough to figure out among people of good will. We want a peace that lasts, we want to see poverty radically reduced, a country where all of us do meaningful work, we want to see crime reduced and we want to live in an environment that is mutually sustainable.

Some people may not agree, but I believe there are multiple viewpoints on how to reach those idealistic ends. I do not believe the Democratic Party has all the answers, nor should it take the peace and justice vote for granted every two years. But this past week’s debate over the economy was good proof that Republicans must learn how to look beyond the “it’s my money” mentality to make meaningful suggestions for creating a more just society.

Steele’s Catholic-influenced ideology might be the right tool to adjust his party’s outlook. He is, for instance, opposed to capital punishment, in favor of some form of affirmative action, has stated that foreign policy should not be “shoot first and ask questions later,” all while he talks powerfully about his own story reflecting the American dream.

There are certain issues where the fight will remain raging for now and some of his causes will also come from current Church teaching – gay marriage and abortion are two easy examples.
But there are many justice issues – poverty, climate change, immigration, restorative justice, terrorism and war – which Steele should dig deep into his lessons about social justice and lead his party towards a broader worldview.

It will be a good sign that if, in 2010, new Republican candidates are perplexing the media by addressing social justice issues head-on as a way to win popular support. The Obama-Steele rivalry could conceivably make this happen. If this doesn’t happen, Steele will have failed no matter his win-loss record. And this country will continue to seek out its own ideals with one eye blurry and the other eye blind.

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Migrant Farmworkers Project update

By Megan Hope

To everything there is a season. We at the Migrant Farmworkers Project found ourselves remembering that in 2007, at the end of the worst Missouri apple harvest in our 24-year history. A severe, late spring freeze destroyed 90 to 95 percent of the corps in the orchards along Highway 24 in Lafayette County (about an hour east of Kansas City), where the farmworker families we serve live and labor. Few workers found sufficient work, and many left early.

Things have turned this year. Some migrants are staying in Missouri longer than usual, and women expect their jobs in apple packing sheds to last until mid-December. Beyond having more families present and finding work, we have numerous small victories to celebrate.

An average of 10 adult farmworkers made heroic efforts to attend twice-weekly English classes after working 12- to 16-hour days in the orchards. Nine migrant kindergarten and grade school students won “Kids With Character” awards at their school.

Seven migrant youth have applied to participate in the challenging outdoor winter program of Aspen Youth Experience (AYE), a prestigious national youth development organization. Other teenagers who participated in two AYE programs during the summer are attending follow-up sessions with our staff to keep them on track with their personal and academic goals. We are in frequent contact with six migrant students in college at the University of Central Missouri, Donnelly College, and Blue River Community College, and one graduate student at Christian Brothers University. And we continue to accompany the parents of Mundito, a young boy with cerebral palsy, and other migrant kids with special needs through a maze of teachers, therapists, and technologies.

To be sure, difficulties persist for the migrant community, even during better seasons. Families claimed bags of supplemental groceries throughout the fall, a testament to the effects of high food and fuel prices. Two weeks ago, a fire destroyed the rundown, former school building that four families had called home for years. All escaped safely, and Lafayette County churches, schools, and other agencies have helped them replace necessities and some funds. Currently all four households are sharing a four-bedroom, two-bathroom, one-kitchen house until something better comes along. The sinking economy will make for a tough winter for farmworkers throughout the country.


The Migrant Farmworkers Project invites everyone to mark the upcoming season of holidays with us. On Sunday, December 7, Ten Thousand Villages will host MFP for a Community Benefit Shopping Day. The store, located at 7947 Santa Fe Drive in downtown Overland Park, features beautiful, fairly traded home décor, jewelry, gifts, and more made by artisans in developing countries. MFP will receive 15% of sales made from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. that day. We will use the proceeds to support our education and leadership development programs for migrant youth and adults, about 200 of whom live year-round in Missouri.

For more information about the Migrant Farmworkers Project, please call (816) 474-9868 or write to Megan Hope, Project Development Writer, at

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Resurrection: A new life for Brad Grabs

By Brad Grabs

“So, are you OK with death and resurrection?” asked Fr. Ed. I looked down at the table between us. I took a drink of my iced tea. Then, I glanced up at him. “Well, I love the idea of resurrection. It’s the death thing that I have a hard time with.”

Months ago, I shared lunch with my friend, Fr. Ed Hays, as I explained to him my plans to move on from Shalom Catholic Worker House, a homeless shelter for men, after 10 years of living and working there as a volunteer. Though I felt fairly certain that I was being called to leave, I still dreaded the thought of leaving behind my life in the community that had been my home for most of my adult life.

My decision to leave Shalom House was affirmed by Miro, our young volunteer from Germany. Knowing that I was struggling with my decision, Miro made this observation: “Shalom House is a place where people go for help to become a better person. Maybe Shalom House has helped you all that it can.” The more I reflected on his words, the more I recognized the wisdom in this statement.

During the past 10 years, I have grown and changed in ways I would never have imagined. I have been shaped and formed by extraordinary experiences and countless good people. Shalom House has truly helped me to become a better person, and has taught me invaluable lessons.

Struggling to be patient and charitable to Alvin, a homeless man who is bitter and abrasive, has taught me a bit about unconditional love, and how truly difficult it can be.

Sitting through the horrific murder trial of a former guest, whom I consider my friend, has taught me a lot about the complexity of each human being.

Assisting an undocumented guest in court to sue a crooked slumlord has taught me a lot about vulnerability, and about greed.

Watching our teenage neighbor wither and die in our street after being shot by the police has taught me a lot about power and control. Seeing what his family went through afterwards taught me about the lack of it.

Seeing the cruel rejection faced by a guest who told his mother that he had AIDS taught me how incredibly blessed I am to have been born to compassionate and loving parents.

Treating cuts and bruises of undocumented immigrants who just jumped off of the freight train after a harrowing journey across the border has taught me how devastating some laws are, and how real their consequences.

Standing on street corners in protest against injustices of many kinds has taught me that there is value in resistance, even if it has little apparent effect.

Accepting monthly donations of $10 from a poor widow who wants to participate in our ministry has taught me a lot about providence and generosity.

And living in community with people of all ethnicities, backgrounds, abilities and disabilities, ages, strengths and weaknesses, has taught me much about the beauty and wonder of our Creator.

Clearly, living at Shalom House has taught me a great deal and made me a better person. Moving on from Shalom House after 10 years truly felt like a death in many ways. It was not easy and not without pain and regrets. But as Fr. Ed Hays reminded me at lunch that day last spring, if one wants to experience resurrection, one must endure death.

I have been gone from Shalom House for over a month now, and the feeling of death is still present. Even so, I am slowly seeing evidence of resurrection in my new life. I live in a house near Shalom and continue directing a neighborhood learning program for inner city kids and operating a small tree care business. Every day, I see new opportunities to apply the lessons that I have learned over the past 10 years to other areas of my life. And I see resurrection slowly emerging in unexpected ways in my life after Shalom.


Shalom Catholic Worker House continues its 26 year old ministry of providing breakfast, dinner, and a safe place to sleep and call home to 20 homeless men in Kansas City, Kansas. The current live-in community of volunteers, Dawn Willenborg, Pedro Olvera, Miro Heyink, Rusty Bailey, and summer intern Matt Lynch continues the day-to-day operation of the house. More volunteers, especially live-in volunteer staff, are needed. With human resources stretched thin, Catholic Charities of KCK has offered to hire someone to assist with house operations and case management. It is everyone’s wish that Shalom House, which is the only men’s homeless shelter in Wyandotte and Johnson Counties, could continue to be run by volunteers. But it appears that keeping Shalom House operating to its full capacity will necessitate a change in operating structure, perhaps with a hired staff.

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Border deaths & KC arrests

NOTE: This letter was sent to the Kansas City Star and provided to the Olive Branch for posting.

By Henry Stoever

The Border Patrol has found some 4,200 dead bodies in the U.S. desert since 1995 as migrants seek entry to support their families, says the relief group “No More Deaths” of Tucson, AZ. NAFTA cancels tariffs on U.S. goods, allowing cheaper U.S. produce to flood Mexican markets, driving Mexican farmers off their land and to the U.S. to seek income for their families.

On April 28, 40 protesters, mostly Catholic Workers, gave witness at the Federal Building in KCMO, and I was one of six arrested for “blocking entrances and walkways.” We demand immigration reform. We reject the criminalization of humanitarian aid to immigrants. We object to raids, deportation, family separation. Europe has a guest worker program; why don’t we? To paraphrase Reagan’s challenge to Gorbachev, we say, “Mr. Bush, tear down that border wall.” How we treat immigrants strikes to the core of our values and souls.

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