Detained Migrants Deserve Spiritual Care

Migrants and refugees in prisons and detention centers have the same right to spiritual assistance as any other person, a U.S. bishop told a Vatican meeting. Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, told the Vatican’s World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees that Catholic dioceses and other groups have had difficulty gaining access to detainees for pastoral purposes. The growing number of people in U.S. detention centers has made the issue of access even more urgent. Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, Bishop Wester said, “The U.S. government has turned to the detention of immigrants as another weapon in the ‘war on terrorism.’” The government “detains over 280,000 persons a year, more than triple the number of those detained just nine years ago.” Because of increased security concerns, combined with an “onerous law” on immigration passed in 1996, the government in effect presumes undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers “should be incarcerated rather than released” while awaiting hearings on their status, Bishop Wester said.

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Gwendolyn Brooks' poetry presented readers with a look into the life of African-Americans.
Judith ValenteJune 26, 2017
A man sits on a snowy street in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In January, the city of Toronto began collecting data for the first time on deaths among its homeless population. (Photo via iStock)
Every month a group gathers at Holy Trinity Church to hold a vigil for those who have died homeless in Toronto.
Dean DettloffJune 26, 2017
'I saw the Catholic Church from the inside, like a tauntaun.'
Nick Ripatrazone June 24, 2017
Beatriz Mejia of El Salvador speaks at a rally in front of the White House in Washington in March 2016 in support of immigrant families who are seeking asylum. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
Can a Catholic carry out his or her job duties in good conscience if they include the deportation of people facing imminent death in their home countries?