Catholics mark National Migration Week as threats to migrants mount

A woman holds a sign showing her support for Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, during a 2017 rally near the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn) 

Catholic bishops in the United States are making a renewed push this week for protections for migrants, though they appear to be fighting an uphill battle as the Trump administration prepares to end a program that allows 200,000 displaced Salvadorans to live in the United States and renews its call to extend the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

On Monday, the Associated Press reported that President Trump plans to end Temporary Protected Status for citizens of El Salvador living in the United States following a devastating earthquake in 2001. Though details have not been announced, the AP said that those living in the United States under the program will have until September 2019 to leave the United States, adjust their status or face deportation.

Advertisement

Catholic bishops wrote a letter to the administration last month urging an extension of the program.

President Trump plans to end Temporary Protected Status for citizens of El Salvador living in the U.S. following a devastating earthquake in 2001.

In November, the Trump administration ended similar protection for Haitians, requiring about 50,000 to leave the country or adjust their legal status by July 22, 2019, and for 2,500 Nicaraguans, who face a deadline of Jan. 5, 2019.

The news about Salvadoran refugees comes just as Catholic bishops launched National Migration Week, a nearly 50-year-old program meant to highlight the contributions of migrants to the United States and to advocate for just migration policies.

In Chicago, Cardinal Blase Cupich kicked off the week by celebrating a packed, multi-lingual Mass on Epiphany Sunday at Holy Name Cathedral. He delivered a message in English and Spanish, comparing the migrants of today to the Magi who traveled a great distance to visit the baby Jesus.

“Today we come knowing that the Magi have much to tell us about our faith, reminding us who we should be, and so do migrants and the dreamers and those who have aspirations to have a life that’s filled with God’s blessing,” the cardinal said, addressing a crowd filled with migrants from several continents, many sporting traditional garb as they processed down the center aisle before Mass began.

The undocumented “remind us who we were called to be, not only as a nation of immigrants but as a people of faith.”

During his homily, Cardinal Cupich riffed on a homily given by Pope Francis to mark the Epiphany, saying that immigrants and the undocumented “remind us who we were called to be, not only as a nation of immigrants but as a people of faith, who know that God has so much more in store for us.”

“The Holy Father is right,” he said, following Mass. “We, as people of faith, build bridges, not walls. We bring people together; that’s our task, that’s our heritage. We need to be proud of it and embrace it more fully.”

Before the Mass concluded, two migrants spoke to the congregation, one a refugee from Africa and the other a medical student who is allowed to study and work in the United States under a federal program that protects individuals who were brought into the country illegally as children.

She urged worshippers to contact lawmakers to press for comprehensive immigration reform.

Cardinal Cupich: “We, as people of faith, build bridges, not walls. We bring people together; that’s our task, that’s our heritage.”

Last year, President Trump ended the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shielded more than 700,000 people from deportation and gave them the right to work or pursue higher education in the United States. He gave Congress until March to find a legislative fix for their precarious status.

Last week, the administration proposed spending $18 billion over 10 years to significantly extend the border wall with Mexico, providing one of its most detailed blueprints to date of how the president hopes to carry out a signature campaign pledge. The president has said that any deal to extend DACA protections must be accompanied by funding for a border wall.

Many Catholic leaders are holding events and issuing statements in honor of National Migration Week.

The president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, for example, expressed solidarity with migrants and called on others to stop “blaming migrants and fanning anti-immigrant sentiment that divides our nation.”

“We renew our call for an immediate end to the unjust and immoral treatment of migrants and refugees, recognizing that decades of failed U.S. political and economic policies have contributed to the reasons people have fled homelands,” said Mercy Sister Patricia McDermott from the sisters’ headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., in a statement released on Jan. 3.

“In a way, just as we call Jesus the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, we can refer to him as the Migrant of Migrants as well.”

According to the statement, the Sisters of Mercy “stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers who are forced by poverty, persecution or violence in their native countries to flee their homes, loved ones and livelihoods, desperately seeking safety and the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families.”

Bishop Michael Olson, head of the Diocese of Fort Worth, took to Twitter to confront a common accusation that undocumented migrants living in the United States broke the law and thus do not merit protection from deportation.

In Miami, Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached about the U.S. national motto—e pluribus unum—which was recently in the news after President Trumpremoved the phrase from a commemorative coin.

“The church teaches us not to fear the migrant—and the church warns us not to mistreat the migrant,” the archbishop said. “In a way, just as we call Jesus the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, we can refer to him as the Migrant of Migrants as well.”

Pope Francis devoted part of his annual New Year’s address to diplomats to the Holy See to highlight the plight of migrants, a constant theme of his nearly five-year papacy, condemning those who talk about migration “only for the sake of stirring up primal fears.”

He noted that “migration has always existed” and said we should not “forget that freedom of movement, for example, the ability to leave one’s own country and to return there, is a fundamental human right.”

“There is a need, then, to abandon the familiar rhetoric and start from the essential consideration that we are dealing, above all, with persons,” the pope said.

Material from the Associated Press and Catholic News Service was used in this report.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Robert Lewis
4 months 1 week ago

It is time for the American Catholic Church to be at the forefront of resistance to this, and to preach non-violent civil disobedience to her faithful and to their parish priests. There are municipal and state governments in this country who are waiting for such a signal of leadership on this issue.

J Cosgrove
4 months 1 week ago

Maybe we should find other countries that have similar language and cultures for these people. Or shouldn't our priority be to help make their original countries a more hospitable place and one where the people would be comfortable in. What is it about the countries generating the migrants that makes them want to leave and enter a place that is hostile to them.

Also, why the United States? There are several large and prosperous countries which take in almost no people from other countries

Robert Lewis
4 months 1 week ago

Yeah, like Saudi Arabia. Need I remind you that those countries aren't even ostensibly Christian--as ours pretends to be. Need I also remind you that we are a nation of immigrants--and particularly of CATHOLIC immigrants, about whom the Protestants of New England and elsewhere were saying precisely the same things as you and your fellow right-wingers are saying about Muslims and Hispanics, back in the last decade of the Nineteenth Century and the first decade of the Twentieth? (And, before you get on your high horse and deny it, please recall your history lessons about the "Know-Nothings" and about the traditional religion of the ethnicity that produced some of the most violent bomb-throwing anarchists of that era. Hint: the Catholic nation of Sacco and Vanzetti.)
Also, if you know anything of British history, you might consider the lesson of the demonizing of the Catholic minority in England, as a result of the actions of a few, at the time of the Gunpowder Plot in 1604. Catholic priests hanged, drawn and quartered. Catholic youth denied entrance to universities for three centuries because they were accused of being "terrorists." Think hard and well about what the white nationalists are saying about your bishops: how they are "packing the pews" with Hispanics, to make up for the Church's losses among whites. Your allies of today are more than likely your greatest nemesis in the future.

J Cosgrove
4 months 1 week ago

Thank you for your kind words. But I haven't a clue what you are trying to say.

Robert Lewis
4 months 1 week ago

Oh, I think you do.

J Cosgrove
4 months 1 week ago

Oh, I think you do.

No I don't. I know you are angry about something as many are on this site. That is true I understand that.

What you wrote is incoherent. Before one can write intelligentally about a subject one has to look at the arguments on both sides. We have an immigration policy written into law and the responsible action is obeying the laws. Most of those laws were written by the Democratic Party who are best described as the "left." There are no "right" in the United States.

There is an advocated policy for modifications of the immigration laws. That is what should be debated.

Debate these modifications. Not accuse others of negative attitudes or actions. Otherwise you cede the argument to your opponents because of the incoherence of your thoughts. I have no ideas how movements of hundreds of years ago has anything to do with what is happening today.

For an example of something to debate, not one country on the planet today allows people entering into it to demand citizenship no matter how they arrive. It seems you want to make the Unitrd States the only one. Have you thought that through?

Robert Lewis
4 months 1 week ago

You are absolutely wrong on so many accounts:
A) the lessons of history regarding the demonizing of minorities or alien "others" are ALWAYS germane to affairs regarding current injustices;
B) we do NOT have a "policy written into law" that is just or merciful; instead, it is unjust and it is persecutory and demeaning of good, hardworking people;
and C) almost EVERY democratic and civilized country "on the planet today" recognizes the rights of refugees to find safe harbor within its borders--if only temporarily--and many of those that these evil Drumpf-allied politicians wish to throw out would STILL be in danger within their native countries.
Your legalistic, pharasitical contortions on this matter are nothing other than amoral obfuscations of the real issues, hurting real people, whom we are OBLIGATED, by Christ's Beatitudes, to have mercy upon.

E.Patrick Mosman
4 months 1 week ago

Pope Francis and the American Catholic Bishops are totally misinformed either through a failure to study and understand the situations in the Middle East, Africa and the Americas or to rely on the leftist advisers when they offer advice to the world and America in particular on the refugee problem. The Pope and Bishops should be emphasizing that these refugees from the Middle East and Africa are fleeing from the internicine religious Sunni vs Shia warfare and homicidal Muslim hordes labeled,ISIS, Boko Haram, et al, targeting non-muslims, in particular Christians, that are devastating their homelands. The refugees from Mexico, Cuba and Central/South America are fleeing corrupt politicians/government officials and vicious drug lords. And where do these homeless want to go? They are heading to those countries whose socio-economic systems the Pope condemns as "bad, unjust" and even worse. The Pope and Bishops should be lecturing the leaders of those countries to improve conditions so that their citizens do not have to leave instead of calling out those countries that he insists must absorb them."

Robert Lewis
4 months 1 week ago

" The Pope and Bishops should be lecturing the leaders of those countries to improve conditions so that their citizens do not have to leave..."

They ARE doing exactly that, to very little effect, but meanwhile, we, as disciples of Christ, have responsibilities that you, apparently, wish to shirk.

E.Patrick Mosman
4 months 1 week ago

There is no "shirking of responsibilities" only calling for legal entries according to the laws of the United States. Sweden,France and Germany are examples of the failure of allowing unlimited immigration of peoples that will not integrate into the local way of life.

Robert Lewis
4 months 1 week ago

Or do you believe that Christ's Beatitudes should not be taken seriously by Catholics? (Or that Charles Dickens' maxim that "the law is an ass" has no relevance here?)

E.Patrick Mosman
4 months 1 week ago

Michael Olson‏ @BpOlsonFW Bishop Michael Olson Retweeted George Gano
"We are first a nation of persons, many as descendent of immigrants."

Unfortunately Bishop Olson reverts to this much used"descendent of immigrants" canard to justify illegal entry as actually America is a nation of legal immigrants who arrived here through government immigration locations, Ellis Island in New York for one. Immigration police patrolled the streets of New York with authority to ask individuals for their immigration papers and if they could not produce proof of legal entry they were arrested and deported. Most while while holding on to their homeland's customs, became Americans, learned English, voted legally, raised their children as Americans and insisted on a good education and never returned to their country of origin. The Federal government's failure to enforce its own immigration laws and to secure the borders has completely shredded the ideal that the USA is a nation of laws by allowing and funding individuals and religions to aid and abet illegal(immigration) activities.

Robert Lewis
4 months 1 week ago

The "immigration papers" that were asked for were those issued on the island; almost all of the Ellis Island arrivals came with absolutely NO papers from their own countries, which means that, de facto, they were as much refugees as the modern-day Syrians and Salvadorans are, and THAT, sir, is palpable evidence that you are comparing apples and oranges, in order, as I said above, to obfuscate the moral issue. Those "immigrants" of the 19th century would nowadays be, in terms of modern immigration practices, "illegals."

Robert Lewis
4 months 1 week ago

In other words, they were made "legal" through a process that was deployed AFTER they had entered the country without the judicial process that would have permitted entry before the fact. Imitation of that method of dealing with the current immigration/refugee situation is precisely what the Salvadorans and the Catholic bishops are asking for, in consideration of MERCY.

rick mazzola
4 months 1 week ago

You can put as much lipstick on a pig as you wish, but it's still a pig. Using the term "Undocumented" does not change the status of ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS, they are still here ILLEGALLY. How do you explain to a LEGAL IMMIGRANT, who did all the right things for the privilege of coming to America and continue the tradition of contributing to our Great Nation as did their forebears when you legitimize the ILLEGALS. No more ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS, NO DACA, NO TO THE SALVADORANS.

rick mazzola
4 months 1 week ago

You can put as much lipstick on a pig as you wish, but it's still a pig. Using the term "Undocumented" does not change the status of ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS, they are still here ILLEGALLY. How do you explain to a LEGAL IMMIGRANT, who did all the right things for the privilege of coming to America and continue the tradition of contributing to our Great Nation as did their forebears when you legitimize the ILLEGALS. No more ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS, NO DACA, NO TO THE SALVADORANS.

Advertisement

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

The Holy Spirit might be the forgotten person of the Holy Trinity.
James Martin, S.J.May 21, 2018
Pope Francis walks past cardinals as he leaves a consistory in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican June 28, 2017. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis is trying to ensure that those who elect his successor are humble men committed to “a church of the poor and for the poor.”
Gerard O’ConnellMay 21, 2018
James Martin, S.J. discusses this groundbreaking exhibition with Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute and C. Griffith Mann, Michel David-Weill Curator in Charge of the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 
America StaffMay 21, 2018
Archbishop Matteo Zuppi (Photo/Community of Sant'Egidio website)
Archbishop Matteo Zuppi of Bologna calls Father James Martin’s book ‘Building a Bridge’ ‘useful for encouraging dialogue, as well as reciprocal knowledge and understanding.’
Matteo ZuppiMay 21, 2018