Forty-five days into the Obama Administration in the United States, the general secretary of the National Council of Churches USA is asking for tangible signs that the promised ‘new day’ in immigration policy has arrived.
The Rev Dr Michael Kinnamon issued the appeal after reports that an immigration enforcement raid on a family-owned engine plant in Bellingham, Washington, resulted in the arrest of 28 employees suspected of being illegal migrants.
The raid, reminiscent of actions routinely carried out by immigrations officials during the Bush Administration, apparently took place without the knowledge of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who said she was investigating the incident.
In November 2008, a resolution by the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches and aid agency Church World Service, called on the government to end indiscriminate immigration raids on places of employment.
“This approach separates family members, many who have waited decades to be reunited, and hurts productivity as those wishing to work in this country also endure lengthy backlogs,” Kinnamon said.
“Such a system leaves many facing the choice between feeding their children and crossing a border illegally. Reaching a point of desperation, many risk their lives to cross the desert, where hundreds of them die every year,” he added.
During the election campaign, President Obama had indicated he favoured reforms in US immigration policy.
“We recognize that the President has a lot on his plate,” Kinnamon explained. “We know he takes the matter of immigration reform very seriously, and incidents like the one reported in Bellingham make it clear it’s time to implement those reforms.”
An editorial in a recent edition of the influential New York Times agreed.
“So, a question: Are Mr Obama and Ms Napolitano in charge or not?” the Times asked. “Let them show it by ending the raids ... Something has to be done about immigration, but it has to be smarter than this.”