Category: immigrant rights

205K deported parents separated from their children in just two years

By Alan Bean

Americans don’t agree on issues like abortion and gun rights, but most sentient citizens understand that kids need to be with their parents and parents need to be with their children.  We grieve for the families in Newtown CT who lost a child to a mad rampage because the worst nightmare of any parent is the horror of losing a child.

Does our compassion extend to undocumented parents separated from their children through deportation?  Seth Wessler has faithfully covered this issue for Colorlines and his most recent article raises issues most of us never think about because we don’t have to.  Parents frequently cross the border illegally in an attempt to reunite with a child.  Deportation destroys families.  Some deportees make several failed attempts to cross the border regardless of the consequences.  That’s what parents do.

Nearly 205K Deportations of Parents of U.S. Citizens in Just Over Two Years

by Seth Freed Wessler

The federal government conducted more than 200,000 deportations of parents who said their children are U.S. citizens in a timespan of just over two years, according to new data obtained by The figures represent the longest view to date of the scale of parental deportation. (more…)

ICE officials say they were just doing their jobs

By Alan Bean

Two Latino parents were arrested in Detroit on Tuesday morning as they dropped their children off at school.  Immigrant rights groups are outraged.  Officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) say they were simply following procedures.

Although Latino voters gave Barack Obama his margin of victory in 2012, more undocumented residents have been deported under his watch than under any previous administration.  Obama won because Latino voters perceived, correctly, that the situation would have deteriorated even further had Mitt Romney become president.

Were the ICE officials who arrested two men in front of their children following standard procedures?  Probably.  The Obama administration is ostensibly focusing on deporting criminals while going easy on undocumented residents with close family ties in America.  Unfortunately, as the article below makes clear, entering the country without documentation is now a federal crime even, as is often the case, the primary reason for entering the United States was to be re-united with young children.

If you were deported as an “illegal alien” while your citizen child remained in the United States, what would you do?

Nothing?  Perhaps, but if you didn’t do everything in your power to get back with your child you would lose my respect (and Jesus wouldn’t be impressed either). (more…)

Crossing the border without papers

Posted by Pierre Berastain

What if the person crossing the border had been a Latin American? What if the person had not been white? It seems to me that no amount of “God-talk” would let that person cross. Our perspectives and attitudes are colored, and they are often colored with shades of injustice or inequalities in the way we treat others. This is an invitation to examine our prejudices.

Don’t buy the hype; immigration reform will be a hard sell in Washington

By Alan Bean

A week ago, I asked “Can the Republicans Romance Latinos?”  My conclusion was negative.  Immigration reform will require strong bipartisan support and the initial leadership must come from the Republican side of the aisle.  Barack Obama’s embrace of mass deportation (we deported more people in 2011 than were deported between 1907 and 1980) shows how desperate Democrats have been to flex their tough-on-immigrants muscle.  Obama is unlikely to stick his head out for the Latino community so long as the Republicans are competing to see who can offend Hispanic voters the most.  Only if the Republican party moves to the left of the Democrats on this single issue will the dynamics of the immigration debate shift significantly.

And that is unlikely to happen.  I argued that a political party that has prospered for two generations by tapping into white racial resentment is unlikely to discard it’s trump card.  How can you play to angry white men and advocate meaningful immigration reform at the same time?  You can’t.

Of course there is more than one kind of racial resentment.  If the Democrats have been undermined by white racial resentment, the Republicans just stumbled over Latino racial resentment.  Latinos have good reason to resent both parties, but the Republicans tried to shore up white votes by intentionally demeaning Hispanic voters.  It came down to choosing which brand of racial resentment would hurt you the most.  Republicans decided, correctly, that they had more to lose by alienating their Tea Party base than they would gain from courting Latino votes.  Obama, realizing he couldn’t out-tough the Republicans, wisely decided to toss the Latino electorate a bone.

Republicans should understand that conservative white voters won’t be voting Democrat anytime soon.  Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.  Conservative whites will vote Republican even if the party moves to the left on immigration; but a large chunk of the party faithful, perhaps a majority, will voice their displeasure.  An internecine civil war will be avoided at all cost.

Barack Obama would likely do his part if the Republicans took the lead on immigration, but he is unlikely to go to the wall on this issue  if he isn’t sure his party has his back.

So it comes as no surprise that Chuck Schumer of the Blue Team and Lindsay Graham of the Red Team are now associating “reform” with an even more militarized border and no real path to citizenship for undocumented residents.  That kind of talk will get us nowhere.

Seth Wessler, the author of the article pasted below, is the guy I call when I have a question about immigration.  He has a thorough grasp of the key issues and the courage to speak painful truth.

Until we get it through our heads that undocumented immigrants are normal men and women with a compelling interest in bettering their lives, we won’t create just policy.  Even those who seem willing to grant “amnesty” insist on “sealing the borders” first.  That is the approach Ronald Reagan took: “The people that are already here can become citizens, but that’s it.”

In the real world, however, people keep crossing the border no matter how many walls we build or how dangerous the passage.  Moreover, in their shoes, we would do the same–if we could summon the courage, that is. (more…)

“I will no longer have to hide”: Pierre Berastain in the Dallas Morning News

This story on Friends of Justice intern, Pierre Berastain, appeared on the front page of Saturday’s Dallas Morning News.  Pierre is a frequent contributor to this blog and also sends out our weekly updates.  AGB

Young illegal immigrant redefines his life in Carrollton and at Harvard


Staff Writer

Published: 21 September 2012

CARROLLTON — Pierre Berastain didn’t embrace the role of mediator when thousands of high school students walked out of classes in 2006 in Dallas and other cities to protest U.S. immigration policies.

He wanted a change in federal immigration policies as much as the protesters.

But his high school principal wanted him to calm students to prevent a walkout at R.L. Turner High School. So he got on the public address system and took several students aside in the hallways.

“Do we want to be recognized for negative behavior or for our accomplishments?” he asked his classmates.

In five years of occasional conversations with a reporter at The Dallas Morning News, Berastain anonymously spoke about his journey through college and his social justice crusades. He’s gone public with his story in recent weeks because of a new policy initiative by the Obama administration that halts deportation and grants temporary work permits to young immigrants. (more…)

Great speech, Bill, but I’ve got a problem

By Alan Bean

Only Bill Clinton can hold an audience through fifty minutes of uninterrupted wonkery.  His speech at the Democratic Convention displayed rhetorical skill, a keen grasp of policy detail and a deep understanding of political reality that only comes with painful experience.  They say convention speeches have little lasting impact.  Clinton’s performance last night may qualify as the rare exception.

But I’ve got a problem.

Mr. Clinton’s triangulating legacy is a big part of the mess we face as a nation.  The Man from Hope mastered the art of the deal.  He met his opponents half way.  He stole their best material.  The new corporate aristocracy could live with a free trading Democrat like this.

Thanks largely to the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the speculative bubbles that followed in its wake, the middle class prospered on Clinton’s watch.  But the poor and the vulnerable (the folks Friends of Justice, and God Almighty, cares about the most) have paid a dreadful price for Clinton’s political success.

In 1996, Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Act that ended welfare as we know it.  The plan worked reasonably well where job markets were strong.  But in many small towns and urban neighborhoods the move from welfare to work, wonderful in theory, didn’t translate to the street.  Now that the job market for the poorest 20% has virtually disappeared, Mr. Clinton’s chickens are roosting everywhere. (more…)

Senator Rubio: What about my DREAM?


By Pierre Berastain
As I heard Marco Rubio’s speech at the Republican National Convention, I was shocked by his words of hypocrisy. I recently came out as an undocumented student in the United States, and for me–a fellow Hispanic–Marco Rubio’s words were insulting. Senator Rubio’s message portrays an America of inclusivity, where dreams are possible. We are a land of endless opportunity that cares not about the color of the skin, but about the tenacity of the spirit.

Senator Rubio, American is just that, which is why I am convinced your party–the Republican Party–is fundamentally anti-American. Your party claims endless opportunity for all. Where is my opportunity to participate in my community? Are two Harvard degrees and a promise of a life in public service not enough for you? What else must I do to prove myself to your party?

I would like to take a look at a few excerpts from Senator Rubio’s speech at the RNC: (more…)

Changing the wind in Waco

By Alan Bean

An earlier post, Immigration and the Heart of God, was written for the event described in this article.  The goal was to place the immigration issue on the agenda of the faith community.  Friends of Justice has been part of this work for several months now and, in cooperation with like-minded groups and individuals, we plan to expand the scope of the Immigration and the People of God program described below.  Lydia Bean’s comment captures the spirit of this work: “It is very clear this is something God cares about.  Politicians always have their finger in the wind to see how it blows.  Rather than trying to change the politicians, we’re trying to change the wind.”

Waco churches urged to join immigration reform discussion


Sunday September 2, 2012

Local activists are encouraging Waco churches to join a nationwide effort that seeks to move the discussion about immigration policy from the political arena to church pews.

The effort kicked off this summer with a symposium that explored what the Bible says about immigrants and how Christians should respond. Held at First Spanish Assembly of God Church in Waco, it drew representatives from 27 organizations, most of them churches, organizer Manuel Sustaita said.

Now, the fledging group is encouraging pastors to follow through on pledges they made at the event, said Lydia Bean, another organizer.

Nine said they would preach sermons this fall related to God’s heart for immigrants. Others vowed to hold voter registration drives or host guest speakers to educate members about immigration issues, she said.

The group plans to meet later this month to talk about possibly hosting a broader community event, Bean said. But for now, the focus is on encouraging congregations to discuss immigration issues. That sort of grass-roots effort is the best bet for prompting meaningful immigration reform, she said.

“I think it is very clear this is something God cares about . . . Politicians always have their finger in the wind and see how it blows,” said Bean, an assistant sociology professor at Baylor University. “Rather than trying to change the politicians, we’re trying to change the wind.”

Bean and Sustaita — who is known to many in the community because of his role as founder of the Waco Vietnam Veterans Memorial — declined to publicly list the churches involved. They said they are sensitive to the fact that immigration policy is a politically touchy issue and want to let pastors approach it in their own time and own way.

But most of the churches involved are evangelical, they said.

The Catholic Church has long advocated immigration reform, Bean and Suistaita noted. So parishes here are already involved in the issue.

But the topic is only recently gaining traction in evangelical circles, Bean said. (more…)

The economic impact of mass deportation

Farmworkers in FloridaBy Alan Bean

The “They Take our Jobs” lobby would have you believe that the presence of undocumented residents is driving the United States to the poor house.  Not so, says the Center for American Progress.  In fact, if only 15% of the undocumented population in states like Texas and New Mexico was suddenly deported, the economic impact would be ruinous.

This research indicates that the prevailing policy of mass deportation isn’t just draining the American treasury of your tax dollars at an alarming rate, it is undermining economic stability.  If you doubt this is so, please check out the charts below.  I have copied the information for Texas and New Mexico, but you can find information on Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia as well.

As the report argues:

There is ample reason to suspect that at least a portion of these jobs would not be readily taken by other workers. Immigrants tend to live clustered in certain communities, where there may not be a ready supply of other workers to fill the openings they would leave behind. Additionally, undocumented workers tend to have skill sets that are specific to the industries they work in (for example, construction, home health services, etc.) that often do not match those of the nativeborn unemployed.

The Consequences of Legalization Versus Mass Deportation

Debates about the economic and fiscal benefits and drawbacks of immigrants typically oversimplify the role that immigrants play in our economy. When one looks more closely, they will find that the impact that immigrants (or any group for that matter) have on the economy is multifaceted and complex.

Immigrants are not just workers; they are also consumers and taxpayers. The effects of their labor and consumption on economic growth and fiscal health must be factored in as we consider how to address the situation of a large undocumented workforce.

In this report we describe the direct impacts of either deporting or legalizing undocumented workers in Texas. In reality, the effects would be much larger. Mass deportation, for example, would result in an indirect negative impact on local businesses because there would be less money circulating in the local economy, which would lead to further job losses. The estimates reported here should thus be considered conservative rather than exhaustive.


We estimate the economic contributions of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, for Texas. The state has one of the largest populations of unauthorized immigrants, and it has played and will continue to play a pivotal role in elections as a swing state. We then report the negative fiscal impact of four different deportation scenarios—namely what would happen if 15, 30, 50, or 100 percent of undocumented immigrants were removed from the state. Finally, we explore the positive economic outcomes that would result from legalizing undocumented immigrants. (For a detailed explanation of the methodology used, please see the appendix on page 9.)

effects of mass deportation in texas
 effects of mass deportation in new mexico
New Mexico
Dr. Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda is the founding director of the North American Integration and Development Center.

Immigrants for Sale

Posted by Pierre R. Berastaín

This video is from some time ago, but its message is as powerful today as it was when it first came out.  How do prisons make money and how do anti-immigration laws ensure these private prisons’ profits?