By Fr. Tom Greene, S.J.
Earlier this year, I participated on a panel of immigration attorneys speaking to law students about immigration law careers. One panelist recalled her final days of clerking at the immigration court located within the federal prison in Oakdale, Louisiana. During a break in the docket, the immigration judge for whom she worked asked if she would be continuing her career with the government. The attorney responded that she did not think so and that during her clerkship it had been difficult to witness the deportation of families, the separation of children from parents, and husbands from wives. The judge thought for a moment and replied, “Yep, if you’re gonna think of ‘em as people, you can’t work for us. They’re files!” This article is not intended to impugn the integrity of immigration judges or others who do government work. I have met fine men and women who serve as judges or other immigration employees. However, this sentiment of immigrants being files or non-human or not like “us” is pervasive in the national immigration debate. It subtly, and at times not so subtly, influences our country’s attitudes and policies regarding immigrants.