Principles for Immigration Policy
We are in the process of updating these principles. Please stay tuned for the revised version.
The Chicago New Sanctuary Coalition (CNSC) and Immigrant Welcoming Congregations live out an interfaith vision. We challenge faith communities and leaders through education, advocacy, and action for immigrant justice. We recognize each individual as a child of God and as such, deserving of justice and mercy regardless of country of origin, migratory status, race, ethnicity, religion, age, gender identity or sexual orientation.
We live in a time of an immigration crisis and therefore, as people of faith, we are compelled to social action. We understand that freedom cannot exist for some while is it not fully attainable for others. Freedom cannot exist for some at the cost of the suffering of others: this then is oppression. The United States of America's current policies are fundamentally exclusionary, oppressive and erroneous in its understanding of the realities of migration.
We recognize structural violence, historically given and economically driven conditions, to be at the root of this crisis. Therefore immigration, trade, environmental and international development policies necessitate transformation to reflect our beliefs in the principles of justice and liberation for all people.
1. Pathway to Citizenship
Immigrants living in the U.S. without authorization must have access to a path to permanent residency and citizenship. Marginalization drives people to depend on underground means of survival; this is dangerous both for these individuals and the common welfare. The current crisis is destroying families and communities and demands a comprehensive solution that will allow for a future for sustainable and just immigration policy. We recognize inclusive legalization as the only way to ensure safety and guarantee rights for all people. A pathway needs to be available for all including skilled and unskilled works and must not be bound to economic barriers that exclude.
2. Family Unity and Integration
Families and households should be allowed to legally migrate and be reunified with family members in a timely and efficient manner. Family values are central to sustainable communities. We believe strongly in a right to reunite and integrate. These tenets should be central in any comprehensive immigration policy reform.
3. Protection for All Human Rights
Human rights are by definition universal. The immigration crisis has perpetuated an infringement on the dignity of the person. Human rights include but are not limited to the universal entitlement and protection of the basic rights to survival, emotional and physical security, and access to housing, healthcare and education. The rights of children deserve special attention because of their particular vulnerabilities.
Violations of human rights occur in both countries of emigration and those of immigration. It is imperative that the rights to mobility, residency and nationality be ensured for all those who migrate to seek the ability to flourish. Along with the United Nations Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, we assert all workers' rights to fair wages that support decent livelihood for workers and their families, the right to organize in trade unions, safe and healthy working conditions. Full worker rights must be recognized, protected and enforced. The state is obligated to uphold these rights.
If any employment-based immigration program is instituted, the number of visas should be revised according to the signs of the times such as current economic reality. The option of a pathway to citizenship must be offered to the worker and their family. All workers should be able to find a pathway to citizenship regardless of skill or education level.
4. Humane Enforcement Strategy
The militarization of border has not successfully stopped the flow of migration. It has damaged the natural environment, has driven migrants into remote desert regions and causes thousands of deaths of men, women and children. Militarization has resulted in excessive spending and has not met its intended goals. ICE and law-enforcement agencies must stop using tactics that terrorize immigrant communities and cease using racial profiling to target certain groups of people. They currently abuse their authority with impunity, rather ICE and law enforcement agencies should be held accountable by independent organizations.
Enforcement-only strategy is not helping immigration or slowing migration. We need to ensure due process and access to legal counsel that is competent in immigration law. Immigration authorities should not treat people with civil offenses as if they were criminals. If immigrants are held in detention facilities, their full human rights must be respected, including access to medical and legal services as well as religious counsel. We also need alternatives to traditional detention and to halt the privatization of detention, especially in the cases of children. There should be no profiting off a failed immigration system.
5. Address Root Causes of Migration
While just and comprehensive immigration reform would represent great progress, we must examine what is really broken. International economic and political conditions often constrain people's opportunities and make migration one of the few viable options to meet their basic human needs. While migration has historically been a part of the human experience, the complexity and gravity of the current global migration phenomenon requires a broad-based social and political response that includes, but are not exclusive to, the following:
- Trade agreements
NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and other free trade agreements have failed to create opportunity for people to fully realize their basic human needs. In Mexico, NAFTA has only exacerbated gaps in wages and increased the cost of basic foodstuffs. NAFTA has not encouraged sustainable economic growth in Mexico nor curbed migration. Bilateral/multilateral trade agreements continue to be negotiated worldwide. Any trade agreement should build mutual, just, and sustainable results for all participating countries.
- International Development Policy
The World Bank Structural adjustment policies (SAPs), conditions on loans from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank have had severe implications for less developed countries. They have had a paralyzing effect on countries' ability to lift themselves out of debt. The debt incurred has set up a system of dependence between developed and developing countries. Sustainable and equitable development is necessary for improved well-being and for the an accurate understanding of current migration trends.
- Environmental injustice and disaster
Trade, unbridled Capitalism, and "progress" have led to the commodification of the environment of many lesser-developed countries. This has for example shifted subsistence farming into monoculture cash crops destroying local economies as well as causing widespread environmental degradation. Trade agreements need environmental standards.
Climate refugees are also increasing in numbers as a result of Climate Change but also because of the degradation of the ecosystem. As disasters continue to increase with intensity greater numbers of people are being forced to move or migrate. We need to address these emerging needs both in terms of immigration but also from an environmental justice standpoint.