Intervention by Archbishop George Hugh Niederauer of San Francisco
and dignity of immigrants
Respect for human dignity knows no borders, it does not take into account skin colour, it does not stop with the absence of valid identification documents. And above all this respect cannot cease in prison. These were the points that Archbishop George Hugh Niederauer of San Francisco stressed in his comments on Saturday, 28 January, in the Cathedral of St Mary at an interreligious meeting.
Thousands of immigrants participated in this meeting, many of them Hispanic. The Archbishop staunchly objected to the federal programme opposing illegal immigrants, especially when these measures, which lead to deportation from American soil, are strictly enforced in prisons. This policy is causing suffering and deep division among the large number of immigrant families in the Archdiocese in California. “We cannot allow the pain of family separation and the fear amongst our communities continue”, the Archbishop said, also underlining that “We need to respect the dignity of all our sisters and brothers, undocumented or not”.
The federal programme which counters illegal immigration, in fact California is the state with the highest number of immigrant workers in the world, includes inspection in prisons. The digital fingerprints of the inmates are compared with those of the agency database of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ice). Subsequently those who have entered the country illegally are deported. The enforcement of this program, according to ice, has resulted in the repatriation of more than 110,000 immigrants convicted of various crimes.
Those who defend the rights of immigrants argue that the law is easily applied to people convicted of minor crimes or offences. Actually, in many cases the police force stops immigrants on the basis of general suspicion without specific reference to public order.
“This program results in our brothers and sisters being sent to a detention centre because they were stopped for as little as a traffic violation”, said Moises Agudo of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, during the meeting on Saturday. Last month 33 Catholic priests of the United States called for “just and humane changes … in our immigration laws” assuring immigrants without papers that they are “not alone or forgotten”.
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