Video by John Blackwood, LOQation
Immigration reform in the United States is needed immediately and we, as citizens, must act now. Such was the message of Sr. Josephe Marie Flynn, SSND, author of “Rescuing Regina: The battle to save a friend from deportation and death,” who addressed members of the Cabrini community on Tuesday, April 17, in the Widener Lecture Hall.
Flynn used her Catholic faith and personal experiences to lend gravity to her fight for change.
“Our discipleship calls us to be moved with compassion, then to take action,” Flynn said.
Because the Catholic Church serves as her vocation, Flynn traces the need for discipleship and subsequent transformation back to the Bible, specifically Matthew 25: 35, 40 which states, “For I was a stranger and you welcomed me…what you did to the least, you did to me.” She carries this mantra into her view of how Americans must help immigrants following the style of Jesus, who put high value on those who were outcast.
Flynn’s experience with two Congolese, Regina and David Bakala, serve as a testament to her beliefs. Through their situation of seeking asylum in the United States, she gained personal insight into the asylum and refugee system in the United States. Distinguishing between asylum seekers and refugees in addition to understanding overall immigration policy was paramount to Flynn because as she noted, most Americans are unaware, which is why much of the wrongs of the government go unnoticed.
“While refugees flee to a refugee camp outside their own country, asylum seekers flee directly to the country they want to live in,” Flynn said. “All immigrants need money, a sponsor in the United States and the ability to wait but the main issue is that most have immediate need, which is why reform is necessary.”
Consequently, Flynn explained how the largest misconception regarding immigration reform is that people believe immigrants should just get in line but fail to understand that the line is not an option for most because of the immediate need. The immigration process can take up to 20 years; most do not have the luxury of time if they are fleeing life-threatening circumstances
“The system is broken and we need to fix it,” Flynn said. “We blame the people but they are the result of a broken system.”
Flynn credits the process of expedited removal as one of the leading antagonists in the fight against immigration. As she explained, when one enters the country as an asylum seeker, he or she is met by a border control officer, not an asylum officer, who gets to determine their fate based on three questions used to determine if their fear is “credible.” If an asylum seeker passes, after being sent to a second set of officers, they are shackled and sent to prison for holding. After being placed with criminals, the process entails preparing for a case, usually without a lawyer and then having a hearing, which can take years to get.
According to her statistics, 84 percent cannot afford lawyers and pro-bono lawyers are scarce, which in turn results in the fact that 93 percent of those without lawyers are denied. Today, up to 32,400 asylum seekers and immigrant detainees are in 250 jails, which cost taxpayers $2 billion a year and a whopping $5,500,000 a day.
The Catholic Church is the largest group to welcome and help refugees and immigrants, a fact that Flynn boasts of. She takes this to heart as part of her identity as a Catholic sister. In addition to writing “Rescuing Regina,” Flynn also is the co-founder and chairperson of the Milwaukee Archdiocesan Justice for Immigrants Committee. To learn more about immigration reform and what you can do visit her website www.rescuingregina.com, and the Catholic Church’s Justice for Immigrants campaign www.justiceforimmigrants.org.