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viewpoint

Don’t separate our Notre Dame family

| Monday, February 15, 2016

Five days after we celebrated New Year’s with our family and friends back home, Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) raided the homes of Central American families in nearby Elkhart.

In 2015, 100,000 Central American families crossed our nation’s U.S.-Mexico border. This figure is part of a larger five-year trend, due to an increase in economic and political instability in countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. El Salvador’s homicide rate is almost 90 times higher than that of the United States. Honduras is notorious for its organized crime and corruption. All three countries rank in the top five most dangerous countries according to a U.N. report on homicide rates.

Due to the limited visas available to citizens of Central America, these families are forced to undertake the dangerous task of crossing the United States’ southern border. Migrants who cross the Sonoran desert into Arizona face dehydration, hyperthermia, dangerous wildlife and violence at the hands of coyotes (hired guides) or drug smugglers. They are risking their lives to make it to the U.S., yet when they finally arrive, they are met with the threat of deportation and raids like those that took place in Elkhart.

In response to the recent influx of families crossing the border, the Department of Homeland Security ordered the immediate removal of hundreds of undocumented individuals. ICE raided the homes of families not just in Elkhart, but all across the country. The raided families had previously been detained. However, because of the huge numbers of detainees and a lack of detention space, many were released and told to return for later court proceedings regarding their deportation. Those who didn’t show or were rejected asylum in the U.S. are the recent targets of the ICE raids.

These raids tear families apart. 88 percent of the children of immigrant-headed households are native-born citizens, meaning that when undocumented parents are deported, their children are usually forced to either live with relatives or enter the foster care system. Some politicians argue that the solution to family separation is to deport entire families, including U.S.-born children. However, these children are entitled to the rights and opportunities bestowed upon them as citizens of the United States.

During our trip to the Southern Arizona borders, we gathered at Kino Border Initiative, a Catholic bi-national organization, and met Joanna Williams, the Director of Education and Advocacy. With her, we read testimonies of families for which she advocates. Many of the stories were accounts of family separation. Mothers, who had been living in the United States for a good amount of time, were deported away from their U.S.-born children. These women considered the United States their home and were fearful of the violence they would face if they returned to their native countries. Our government promises family reunification as one of its main tenets of border policy, but as these testimonies and raids in Elkhart prove, this is not the case. Instead, we label children of migrants, “anchor children” and violently raid homes of our neighbors, friends and family.

The Notre Dame community consistently emphasizes the importance of family. Moreover, as a Catholic institution, Notre Dame consistently emphasizes the values of Catholic Social Teaching. CST and Catholic tradition highlight family as important to community participation. Family is an institution that should not be undermined or threatened. Pope John Paul II’s 1999 book, “Ecclesia in America,” highlights the rights of migrant families and the respect for human dignity “even in cases of non-legal immigration.” These current deportations do not respect the importance of family and go against the very basis of Catholic Social Teaching. As Notre Dame students it is our responsibility to draw attention to these deportations and advocate for immigration reform that does not actively tear families apart.

Notre Dame, it’s alumni, students, faculty and larger South Bend area are a family. Our university has strong ties to the Latino population in the region. Latino American families are an integral part of the greater South Bend community and our very university. They are a part of the Notre Dame family, our family and we cannot stand by and allow them to be separated.

Jackie Zink
senior

Allison Verrilli
sophomore

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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