Witness for Peace Southeast supports comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform. In North Carolina, Latino residents numbered some 800,000 as of 2014; and of those, approximately half were immigrants1. Many of these immigrants come from areas of Mexico and Central America gravely affected by the 1994 passage of NAFTA2.
A common misconception held by many U.S. residents and lawmakers is that Latino immigrants put a strain on domestic resources and create stiff competition for jobs. While this is generally untrue on balance3, such attitudes have led to a criminalization of unauthorized immigration in particular, as well as the demonization of the people who come to the U.S. precisely as a result of U.S. trade and drug policy. This leaves our much of our immigrant population living in fear, as well as native-born U.S. citizens whose family members may not be authorized residents.
Further, increased incarceration and detention rates of parents often leaves U.S.-born children homeless or subject to the foster care system. Furthermore, one study showed that household incomes drop as much as 70% after the deportation of a mother or father – usually a father – and 25% of those families surveyed reported food insecurity4.
A report by the Migration Policy Institute released in September 20155 revealed that some 25% of immigrants deported to their home countries between 2003 and 2013 were the parents of U.S.-born children under 18 years of age. A bevy of problems arise when such deportations take place – mental health suffers and economic hardship ensues, including housing and food insecurity. This often leads to a remaining parent or family member seeking social service aid or to children landing in the ill-equipped foster system, now dealing with emotional, behavioral, and oftentimes, stress-related health problems.
In addition to the obvious inhumanity of this process, a strain is put on local governments and systems having to support families left behind, whereas not deporting non-violent unauthorized immigrants actually tends to increase economic security in the areas where they live6.
Witness for Peace Southeast believes that in addition immediately addressing the separation of families in the U.S., a comprehensive approach to policy must include addressing the root causes of unauthorized immigration. Though the issue comprises a complex web of issues, two that stand out glaringly are U.S. trade policy and U.S. drug policy in Latin America. In addition to compassionate and humane immigration reform on the domestic front, WFPSE calls for immediate reform in U.S.-Latin American trade and drug policy.
To learn more about Witness for Peace’s efforts on this issue, consider joining one of our delegations to Mexico or Nicaragua. There we research economic policies and corporate practices that affect those areas and lend to the decision of many to flee northward. Delegates are trained for in-country service and observation, as well as given the tools they need to advocate for humane immigration policies once returning to the U.S.
2. see Trade Agreements policy page