“Catholics have a long history of welcoming and working with immigrants. The call to welcome is rooted in our faith and in our traditions. We are an immigrant church in an immigrant nation.” – Jeanne Atkinson
On August 31, SC Ministry Foundation hosted nearly 70 community partners and Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati for: “Immigration: the Facts, the Challenges and the Nonprofit Response,” presented by Jeanne Atkinson, Executive Director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC).
Since 2003, SC Ministry Foundation has supported the efforts of CLINIC, which provides legal, technical and advocacy support services to nearly 300 affiliates that assist vulnerable and low-income immigrants with family reunification, citizenship, and protection from persecution and violence.
Jeanne Atkinson’s expertise with immigration law stems from her current role with CLINIC, as well as her prior experience as the Director of Catholic Charities’ Immigration Legal Services for the Archdiocese of Washington. Ms. Atkinson holds a J.D. from American University’s Washington College of Law and is a member of the Pennsylvania bar.
Jeanne presented factual data to foster understanding of the immigrant population in the United States and the need for comprehensive reform of immigration policies in our country. Reports show that 41 million immigrants are living in the U.S., including 11 million people who are unauthorized. Of those 11 million people, approximately 6 million have lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years and nearly 2 million have lived in the U.S. for 20 years or more.
Who are We Talking About?
“We are talking about our neighbors, our kids’ playmates, our parents’ caregivers, our doctors and cashiers, our friends,” shared Jeanne. “As we look at the big picture of immigration, we see that we are talking about people who have made lives here and become part of our communities, participate in the labor market, and have created families.” In fact, 5.2 million children born in the U.S. live with at least one undocumented parent.
“We are talking about our workers,” Jeanne explained. “Unauthorized immigrants make up more than 5% of the U.S. labor force.” She added, “There are sectors of our economy that rely heavily on immigrant labor, including agriculture and the service industry.”
Jeanne cited a Brookings Institute Study which found that immigrants raise the overall standard of living of American workers by filling jobs that complement the jobs that employ American citizens.
She presented additional facts to dispel the misinformation that has been shared about immigrants, including:
- Undocumented immigrants pay $11.6 billion a year in taxes;
- Tax revenues of both legal and undocumented immigrants exceed the cost of the services they use;
- Since 1990, the number of unauthorized immigrants has more than tripled. During the same period, the FBI reported that the violent crime rate fell by 48% and the property crime rate fell 41%.
How Are We ‘Welcoming the Stranger’?
Jeanne also discussed the unjust treatment of undocumented immigrants, especially concerning women and children held in detention centers. She shared how CLINIC is advocating for their needs, since many do not have access to adequate medical care, legal counsel, and language-appropriate services.
CLINIC is one of the partners involved with the CARA Pro Bono Representation Project that is dedicated to providing legal services to the women and children detained at the family detention centers in south Texas. SC Ministry Foundation has supported these efforts that have resulted in nearly 8,000 families initiating the process of seeking asylum through CLINIC’s involvement and assistance from 700+ volunteers.
In response to enforcement efforts by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last winter, CLINIC worked with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Education to provide clear communication to immigrant communities. CLINIC created an infographic (shown below) and distributed it in English and Spanish to assure immigrant families of the locations where ICE would not conduct enforcement actions or raids.
For additional information, the program’s presentation slides and a list of resources on immigration issues is available on the SC Ministry Foundation website at: www.scministryfdn.org/programs/immigration-8-31-16.