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Today's Marists

Marist events and stories about parishes, Marist School and Marist personalities are shared regularly in the print edition of our newsletter, Today's Marists. We invite to read about our ministries, missions, history, schools, donors and more.

Download Summer 2017 Today's Marists Newsletter
(updated September 12, 2017)

From Today's Marists Newsletter

Impact of the New Immigration Policies
on our Ministries
By Joel Konzen, SM

Conversations with educators and pastoral ministers around the country point to an effect that the immigration order signed by President Trump in January is having among immigrant populations in the US.

Society of Mary USAThe order made it possible for law enforcement officers to interrogate or detain anyone whose immigration status is in question, regardless of the reason for the initial contact. This has created fear among the undocumented, to be sure, but also among their family members, many of whom are in the United States legally or with legal protection, such as the so-called Dreamers, those who arrived in the U.S. as children and have been granted the right to apply for deportation relief and work permits.

In Marist ministries, the perception of increased law enforcement and resultant deportation of undocumented immigrants is affecting these ministries– sometimes because of actions that have been taken with individuals or families, and sometimes because of the anxiety over possible enforcement actions.

Centro Hispano Marista, a program at Marist School in Atlanta dedicated to helping Hispanic young adults complete their high school equivalency, has between 500 and 600 students enrolled every semester, and nearly 80% of the students are eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA designation.

Society of Mary USA

Students in the program reported apprehension about the possibility that the government would revoke DACA protections. After the criteria for deportation were expanded in mid-February, sharply increased concern and fear spread throughout the student population.

Dr. Leticia Valencia, Centro Marista program director, described what she has seen:

"Students are generally eager to come to class every Tuesday. In mid-February we had a sudden 40% hike in absenteeism. Students expressed their fear of being profiled or of being stopped while driving to school. They were fearful of the possibility of having their families torn apart. We invited an immigration expert to explain to the students their rights and how to better prepare themselves and family members. The specialist explained why it was important to keep coming to school and to listen to reliable sources of information. We set up carpools for those students in the DACA program who had not yet received driver's licenses. Some of the anxiety was reduced, and, although we did lose some students because of fear, most students stayed and are coming to class."

Dr. Valencia goes on to say,

"We did hear some heartbreaking stories from students who were stopped either for a minor traffic infraction or seemingly for no reason at all. In some cases, they had not renewed their DACA due to the uncertainty and the recommendation of their lawyer. They were arrested and transferred to an immigration jail. These young adults spent weeks in jail or are still in jail. Some of them were lucky to leave, but they still had to pay all the fees. Many had to cash in their family’s savings bonds. Some are wearing a tracking bracelet. We know of a mother who will be deported next week. She will be taking her older undocumented daughter while her husband with DACA and younger son, an American citizen, will stay to support the family. We keep praying for all of these families."

Karen Dessables, director of the Reach for Excellence program at Marist School which provides supplemental education and training for middle school students with high educational goals but limited economic advantages, states that the immigration order has had an impact on that program.

"Only one current Reach scholar is undocumented, and the father was deported in December. The student is still in Georgia with his mother and will be graduating from Reach this July and attending a local independent high school," Ms. Dessables commented. "Three additional families representing three current Reach scholars, one graduate, and one incoming Reach scholar were very anxious about the immigration order because their parents are undocumented. One family has left, and I have been unable to communicate with them to know of their whereabouts and situation. The other two families have decided to remain in Georgia, and their children will be attending schools in the area."

Father John Bolduc, S.M., who ministers to a diverse population at St. Patrick's Parish in the Roxbury section of Boston, relates that he is aware of some parishioners who do not leave their homes to buy groceries for fear of arrest. Some children stopped going to school for a time, for fear that on returning home their mother would not be there.

He believes that the Cape Verdean immigrants, many of whom are fairly new arrivals, are the most concerned of the various immigrant groups in the parish. Father Bolduc is aware that a raid by ICE took place in a church parking lot in Lawrence, Massachusetts, but he has heard of nothing similar in Boston.

Society of Mary USAIn Brownsville, Texas, at San Felipe de Jesús Parish on the Mexican border, Father Tony O'Connor, S.M. says that he is seeing more uncertainty and fear as a result of the increased enforcement activity nationwide, but that the number of undocumented people crossing the border is definitely down from previous years.

Educators in the Marist schools indicate that students who come from families with undocumented parents exhibit some of the behaviors described above, particularly absence from school because of a fear that parents without the ability to communicate in English or without specialized legal advice might be vulnerable to immigration enforcement and arrest.

Marists and their affiliates in these ministries
are used to responding to a variety of trials
that affect those they serve, but ministering to parishioners and students who are absent
or hampered by fear presents a singular challenge
to remain faithful to the Marist principle to do
the works of mercy and especially to attend to
those who are the poorest and most neglected.



Centro Hispano Marista,
a program at Marist School
in Atlanta dedicated to
helping Hispanic young adults
complete their high school
equivalency, has between
500 and 600 students enrolled
every semester, and
nearly 80% of the students
are eligible for Deferred Action
for Childhood Arrivals or
DACA designation.


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