Catholic leaders are condemning President Donald J. Trump’s request for National Guard troops to be deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border, calling it dangerous and unwise policy and urging the administration to be more welcoming to migrants trying to enter the United States.
The president’s request “to deploy the National Guard to the border is morally irresponsible and dangerously ineffective,” reads a statement from the Hope Border Institute signed by Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso. “It is a hurtful attack on migrants, our welcoming border culture, and our shared values as Americans.”
Asserting the situation had reached “a point of crisis,” the president signed a proclamation directing the deployment of the National Guard to the border to fight illegal immigration and drug smuggling.
“The lawlessness that continues at our southern border is fundamentally incompatible with the safety, security, and sovereignty of the American people,” Mr. Trump wrote Wednesday in a memo authorizing the move, adding that his administration had “no choice but to act.”
Bishop Seitz said in his statement that “it is irresponsible to deploy armed soldiers in our communities” and that “our border has never been more secure.” He added that “only by working together to address the dehumanizing poverty and insecurity in our sister countries in Latin America and around the world will we resolve the root causes that drive migration.”
“And we know we must end the hopelessness in our communities that fuels our nation’s addiction to drugs, which deals only death and destruction to the people of our continent,” he said.
Other bishops also weighed in, some taking to social media to express displeasure at the administration's policy.
There is no ‘invasion’ of Central Americans heading to the U.S.
Bishop Daniel E. Flores of the Diocese of Brownsville, Tex., published a tweet on Wednesday that sought to debunk notions of an “invasion” of Central American migrants making their way through Mexico to the United States.
Over the past few weeks, a large number of migrants from Central America—a group that reached upwards of 1,500 at its height—had made their way through Mexico, seeking relief from violence plaguing their home countries. Mr. Trump has taken aim at the group and praised Mexico for breaking up the caravan. Many people in the caravan have been given temporary transit visas, which they intend to use to request asylum in the United States. Others say they plan to ask for humanitarian visas to stay in Mexico.
Bishop Flores wrote in his tweet that the migrants had a right to seek asylum.
“There is no ‘invasion’ of Central Americans heading to the US,” Bishop Flores wrote.
He added that migrants “travel in numbers for self-protection against gangs” and noted that many “Central Americans fleeing violence in their native country try to settle in Mexico.”
“Central Americans have a right in US law to apply for asylum,” he concluded.
Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, called Mr. Trump’s decision “a senseless action and a disgrace on the administration.”
In a tweet, the archbishop added, “These measures manifest represion (sic), fear, a perception that everyone is an enemy, and a very clear message: we don’t care about anybody else. This is not the American Spirit.”
These measures manifest a very clear message: we don’t care about anybody else.
Mr. Trump’s decision to use National Guard troops at the border is not without precedent.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the effort would be similar to a 2006 operation in which President George W. Bush deployed troops to help U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel with non-law enforcement duties while additional border agents were hired and trained. President Barack Obama also sent about 1,200 troops in 2010 to beef up efforts against drug smuggling and illegal immigration.
One congressional aide told the Associated Press that lawmakers anticipate 300 to 1,200 troops will be deployed and that the cost was expected to be at least $60 million to $120 million a year. The Pentagon would probably need authorization from Congress for any funding beyond a few months, said the aide, who was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Under the mechanism the administration is looking to use, the Guard would not be mobilized as a federal force. Instead, governors would control the Guard within their states.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Correction: The article has been updated with Archbishop Garcia-Siller's correct archdiocese.]
[Sign up for Convivir, a new newsletter from America Media.
Each week, it will highlight news, culture and trends related to Latino Catholics. To receive this important expert analysis in your inbox, sign up here. ]