Pope Benedict XVI has been a vocal supporter of U.S. immigrants, regardless of their legal status. On his flight between Rome and Washington yesterday, the pope made clear that discussing the treatment of Latino immigrants would be a priority during his meeting with President Bush. AFP reports:
The United States must do “everything possible to fight…all forms of violence so that immigrants may lead dignified lives,” the pope said when asked if he would address the issue of Latin American immigrants with the US leader.
The White House viewed the pope’s visit as very important. In a rare gesture, the President and his family even traveled to Andrews Air Force Base to greet the pope as his plane arrived.
Unfortunately, the Bush administration also chose today to carry out immigration raids, arresting more than 280 undocumented workers employed at Pilgrim’s Pride plants in five states. According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), several — but not all — of the immigrants were suspected of identity theft or document fraud. According to a Justice Department press release:
For those arrested solely on immigration violations, that information will assist ICE in making decisions about whether to detain the individual or permit a conditional humanitarian release. Similarly, the information will be provided to the relevant U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and state social services agencies so they are fully informed about humanitarian-related issues that may arise in the individual cases being handled through the criminal justice system. Those being prosecuted on criminal charges will be remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and housed at various facilities near the arrest sites.
It’s no wonder that the pope is concerned about the treatment of immigrants. At a recent House hearing, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) noted that children at immigrant detention facilities have reportedly been “put in cells alone for hours, awakened in the middle of the night with flashlights in their faces and threatened with being permanently separated from their parents.”
Under the Bush administration, deportations have increased sharply. In the last fiscal year ending Sept. 30, ICE deported 280,000 people, a 44 percent jump from the previous year. The Bush administration has also come under intense fire from lawmakers and immigration activists for carrying out politically motivated raids against immigrants who criticize the White House’s policies.
Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition responds to the raids:
There is a fundamental disconnect between our nation’s moral belief that all human beings should be treated with dignity and the implementation of our nation’s broken immigration system. For the President to put at risk the sanctity and safety of immigrant families by conducting yet another round of harsh immigration raids flies in the face of the Pope’s call for humane treatment of all people.