The impact of Obama’s immigration appeal on NH

The uncertainty not only affects the lives of undocumented immigrants, but the lives of their families and the places where they live, work and shop

The next step in determining the fate of an estimated 4 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States – including approximately 8,000 in New Hampshire – took place July 10, when the Obama administration returned to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

The administration was seeking to lift an injunction granted by a Texas federal judge in February blocking several executive actions that would provide undocumented immigrants protection from deportation and a chance to apply for work permits. The judges have yet to issue their ruling.

The uncertainty of the outcome not only affects the lives of these undocumented immigrants, but the lives of their families and the places where they live, work and shop.

Catholic Charities New Hampshire’s Immigration and Refugee Services work closely with immigrants to provide support and legal representation for various immigration-related issues. The Office of Immigration and Refugee services refers immigrants and refugees to other areas where they may need help in the Catholic Charities network, such as counseling, job training and other services.

We have seen many immigrants come to this country and be productive and lawful permanent residents, eventually becoming naturalized U.S. citizens. In addition to Catholic Charities, many Christians – and others of different faiths – also provide support and assistance to immigrants and refugees.

The overwhelming majority of undocumented immigrants living in New Hampshire contribute positively to their communities. They provide an economic boost through consumer spending, increase the workforce with a willingness to take jobs that pay lower wages in fields that include construction, service industries and agriculture, and they have been a boost to the inner cities (in particular, Nashua), where neighborhoods are becoming more vibrant and low-income rental properties are being filled by hard-working families.

What would happen if the president’s executive orders are never implemented?

• More government spending on enforcement of deportation of undocumented immigrants who do not break laws and have been contributing members of their communities

• Continued rising expenses of detention, including the detention of families with small children

• Disruption to mixed-status families and the possible deportation of a head of household, resulting in families unable to live productively and forcing some into homelessness

• Loss of consumer spending

• Loss of low-skilled workers who fill gaps in the labor market.

New Hampshire is one of 10 states – and the only one in New England – that neither formally supports President Obama’s executive action nor opposes it. Maine is among 26 states that filed a lawsuit to challenge the executive action; Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut are among 14 states that have asked the courts to support the executive action.

Pope Francis reportedly plans to speak on the plight of immigrants when he visits the United States in September and the U.S. Catholic bishops addressed the issue of immigration with a 2003 pastoral letter, “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope.”

In it, they support the rights of people to find employment in other countries when they cannot find employment in their own country to support themselves or their families.

The bishops also urged the U.S. to develop an earned legalization program that “would allow foreign nationals of good moral character who are living in the United States to apply to adjust their status to obtain lawful permanent residence.”

Such a program “would create an eventual path to citizenship, requiring applicants to complete and pass background checks, pay a fine, and establish eligibility for resident status to participate in the program. Such a program would help stabilize the workforce, promote family unity, and bring a large population ‘out of the shadows,’ as members of their communities.”

Those words still resonate today. Maybe now more than ever.

Cathy Chesley is director of immigration and refugee services for Catholic Charities New Hampshire.

Categories: Opinion