Cardinal Cupich: Federal immigration agents must have warrant to enter schools

New Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago leaves a prayer service at which he took possession of his titular church of St. Bartholomew on Tiber Island in Rome on Nov. 20. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) New Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago leaves a prayer service at which he took possession of his titular church of St. Bartholomew on Tiber Island in Rome on Nov. 20. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

The Roman Catholic archdiocese in Chicago told its schools this week not to let federal immigration agents into their buildings without a warrant, in step with guidance given to hundreds of Chicago public schools last week in response to President Donald Trump's efforts to crack down on illegal immigration.

Marking what may be the first such guidance issued by a Roman Catholic church leader, Cardinal Blase Cupich sent the directive in a letter on Monday to principals of more than 200 schools and other officials in the nation's third largest archdiocese. He said that if immigration agents show up without a warrant, to "tell them politely they cannot come on the premises, ask them for their contact information and tell them to contact the (archdiocese) Office of Legal Services."

Advertisement

Kevin Appleby of the Center for Migration Studies, a Catholic policy institute that advocates for immigrants and refugees, said he was unaware of any other U.S. bishop sending such guidance in response to Trump's sweeping rewrite of immigration enforcement policies.

"Cardinal Cupich is adhering to the civil law but also sending a message to the Trump administration that his priests and archdiocese will not be assisting (the Department of Homeland Security) with their mass deportation program," said Appleby, who for years led the immigration office of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "While President Trump is using all legal means possible to deport immigrants, the church will use every legal means possible to protect them."

A spokesman for Homeland Security declined to comment but pointed to the department's website, which says enforcement action at "sensitive locations," such as schools and churches, "should generally be avoided."

The issue is of particular interest in Chicago, where Hispanic students make up nearly half of the 381,000 students in the city's public school district and a quarter of the 76,000 students in the archdiocese's schools. The archdiocese covers Chicago and some of its suburbs.

For weeks, parents and school officials have reported that children have expressed fears that they or their friends will be grabbed by immigration agents or they will come home to find their parents have been taken. Chicago Public Schools issued similar guidance to its roughly 650 schools last week.

Agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have rarely entered places like churches to take custody of people living in the U.S. illegally. Still, Cupich's letter won praise by people and groups worried that agents may not show such restraint given Trump's aggressive new enforcement plan.

"I think it's good that he is giving his priests some instructions on how to deal with ICE, because we shouldn't allow them to just come into our property and round up immigrants who have come there to pray or participate in parish activities," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter newspaper.

Cupich, who was appointed in 2014 to oversee the archdiocese's 2.2 million Catholics, did not say what principals should do if agents insist on being allowed in schools. In the letter, he makes clear that the archdiocese has limited power.

"We have not named our churches as 'sanctuaries,' solely because it would be irresponsible to create false hope that we can protect people from law-enforcement actions, however unjust or inhumane we may view them to be," he wrote, noting that there are "criminal penalties and fines for anyone who conceals, harbors or shields from detection" anyone who has entered the U.S. illegally.


Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

The latest from america

 10.17.2018 Pope Francis greets Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago before a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct. 16. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)
“We take people where they are, walking with them, moving forward,” Cardinal Blase Cupich said.
Michael J. O’LoughlinOctober 20, 2018
Catherine Pakaluk, who currently teaches at the Catholic University of America and holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University, describes her tweet to Mr. Macron as “spirited” and “playful.”
Emma Winters October 19, 2018
A new proposal from the Department of Homeland Security could make it much more difficult for legal immigrants to get green cards in the United States. But even before its implementation, the proposal has led immigrants to avoid receiving public benefits.
J.D. Long-GarcíaOctober 19, 2018
 Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, then nuncio to the United States, and then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, are seen in a combination photo during the beatification Mass of Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J., Oct. 4, 2014. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
In this third letter Archbishop Viganò no longer insists, as he did so forcefully in his first letter, that the restrictions that he claimed Benedict XVI had imposed on Archbishop McCarrick—one he alleges that Pope Francis later lifted—can be understood as “sanctions.”
Gerard O’ConnellOctober 19, 2018