Jesuits nationwide are taking action in response to the large-scale child immigration crisis that began this summer as tens of thousands of children — many unaccompanied by parents or guardians — from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico migrated to the United States.

The Jesuit Conference of the United States collaborated with 23 other national faith-based organizations to author a letter addressed to President Barack Obama, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder last week.

“As national faith-based organizations hailing from a diversity of traditions, we write to express our disappointment at the decision to delay acting to provide immigration relief for millions of our fellow community members,” the Sept. 30 letter states.

The letter urges the Obama administration to end deportation practices that make migrants more vulnerable to trafficking, exploitation and violence, change Customs and Border Protection polices, which currently allow lethal use of force, address the lack of accountability and responsiveness to complaints at CBP and end the inhumane practice of family detention.

U.S. Jesuit Conference National Advocacy Office Policy Director Shaina Aber said that these delays and inaction are an infringement of basic human rights.

“It is frankly pretty shameful that our government hasn’t responded to these issues,” Aber said. “It is abhorrent that the U.S. government has chosen to give guidelines to border patrol that are so out of step with their guidelines for other law enforcement agencies. There is simply no political calculus that can justify the loss of human lives because an election season is coming up.”

Currently the Jesuit Conference is waiting for a response from the Obama administration and is working to raise awareness about unsafe deportation practices and the family detention crisis. Many leaders are reaching out to Jesuit parishes, working with Jesuit communities across the United States and conducting meetings with the White House.

While the community awaits an answer from the government, Georgetown theology professor Fr. James Walsh, S.J., said that the Jesuit community has a duty to combat the infringement of immigrant rights.

“When St. Ignatius and his companions started the outfit that would eventually turn into the Jesuit order in the 1530s, central to their identity was that they would go serve and help the most neglected, the most in need. That is central to our identity, historically, and therefore, this is what we are for,” Walsh said.

Walsh said he has abided by the Jesuit call to action by combating critics of religious involvement in immigrant rights through his studies of the Old Testament.

“The best thing any Jesuit can do is to do his work and then make it available to other people, as opposed to direct action,” Walsh said. “The Jesuits are the bridge builders between the church and the world — it is the Jesuits’ duty to go past the ordinary frontier of things.”

Hoyas for Immigrant Rights has also participated in advocacy efforts, holding a vigil in front of the White House on Monday for refugee children from Central American. The vigil occurred in response to the current legislative pause on immigration reform and faulty policy, which will not resume until after the upcoming midterm election.

Kim Maima (SFS ’15), a Hoyas for Immigrant Rights member, said that she attended the vigil to show that she does not support the administration’s policies, which she believes persecute individuals who are fleeing from violence. Maima said that the Jesuit community at the university helped the club plan and execute the vigil.

“Right now the focus of Hoyas for Immigrant Rights is on the crisis of undocumented minors along the border,” Maima said. “We reached out to the Jesuit community on that issue through hosting our vigil, aiming to create an event that was very spiritual, very reflective — different from the events we’ve had in the past, which have been more about advocacy, activism and public demonstration. We want to show them that we have empathy for what they are going through, by standing in solidarity with them.”

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