January 19, 2018

Director is hopeful, realistic about immigration reform efforts

By John Shaughnessy

Tim Winn has watched closely as politicians in Washington have begun the new year seeking to find a solution to immigration reform in the United States.

“It’s unfortunate that there are some stipulations that both sides are trying to include in it because ultimately that hurts the thousands of people who would benefit from some sort of policy change,” says Winn, the director of immigration legal services of Catholic Charities Indianapolis. “But I’m glad that there is some momentum.

“It does feel like with the new year there was a new shift in importance for some sort of immigration reform. So I’m happy about the momentum being picked up.”

Winn has also kept that balance of hope and reality as he has followed the news surrounding a federal judge’s decision on Jan. 9 to temporarily block President Donald J. Trump’s administration from phasing out protections for undocumented “Dreamers”—the name given to the nearly 800,000 people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the program that covers children who were brought to the U.S. illegally.

“It’s nice to think that people whose DACA has expired can possibly renew it while they’re sorting this all out. So maybe they can continue to keep their status,” Winn says.

“But there is some concern it will affect [the politicians in Washington] from wanting to do any major overhaul or make any actual policy change—that it will just kind of delay everything. So there’s that concern. But obviously for the clients who are really just caring about the day to day—going to school and working—I think it could be good.”

Winn’s ultimate hope for immigration reform is a policy that will lead to a win-win for immigrants and the country.

“I would like to see a major overhaul of immigration law that puts people first, that recognizes the efforts and benefits of immigrants in this country, and recognizes the history of immigrants in this country,” he says.

One of his major concerns is that immigration reform just doesn’t focus “on those immigrants who are going to bring economic change.”

“From what we’ve seen, there’s an effort towards allowing the high-skilled immigrants in, which is great,” he says. “But we also have to recognize that there are a lot of other folks who can bring a lot of benefit to the country, but who might not necessarily have those high skills. So I think we need an overhaul to immigration reform that is humanitarian in nature, that creates new lines for getting some pathway [to citizenship], and that those lines aren’t 20 years long.”

That humanitarian approach has been the hallmark of the archdiocese’s Refugee and Immigrant Services program that has helped 20,000 people during the past 40 years.

In 2016, Catholic Charities Indianapolis helped about 600 refugees and migrants by offering food, clothing, housing and job readiness classes. The archdiocese’s Refugee and Immigrant Services program also matches migrants and refugees with volunteer mentors.

The assistance continues to extend to the “Dreamers” and their families.

In his work, Winn has seen where the power of a dream can lead.

“I’ve had a number of clients who I have seen since the beginning of DACA, which was in 2012. So for six years, we’ve been doing the renewals. And I’ve had multiple clients come back to me asking for a letter of recommendation because they’re buying houses.

“I get the benefit of looking into their case and their story, and there are a few people who you really just see making huge strides—going back to school, having great jobs, making good money and then taking off with buying houses and stuff like that.”

(For more information about immigration efforts in Indiana, visit www.archindy.org/immigration.)

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