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Kevin ClarkeJune 13, 2018
Immigrants turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents on April 2 after illegally crossing the border from Mexico into the U.S., and wait to be transported to processing center near McAllen, Tex. (CNS photo/Loren Elliott, Reuters) Immigrants turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents on April 2 after illegally crossing the border from Mexico into the U.S., and wait to be transported to processing center near McAllen, Tex. (CNS photo/Loren Elliott, Reuters) 

The Trump administration’s decision to refuse to accept asylum appeals based on domestic abuse or gang violence, as well as its policy to separate the children of undocumented migrants from their parents, provided the focus of discussion on the first day of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops spring assembly in Fort Lauderdale, on June 13 and 14. Just after opening prayers, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the Conference, read a strong rebuke of the policies from the dais, and the assembled bishops voiced their support.

Discussion from the floor suggests that U.S. bishops may be prepared for a stronger pushback against Trump administration policies that are being criticized as cruel and outside the U.S. tradition on the welcoming of immigrants and the treatment of people seeking protection from harm.

When the discussion moved to the floor, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, N.J., said the new policy that essentially requires families to be broken apart while criminal proceedings are brought against migrant parents without documentation “is consistent with cardiosclerosis,” or a hardening of the American heart. He called for a widespread discussion among bishops on a stronger response.

Several bishops said it was imperative to do a better job of sharing church teaching on migration and welcoming the stranger.

Cardinal Tobin asked the bishops to consider sending a delegation to inspect the detention facilities holding children “as a sign of our pastoral response and protest against what is being done to children.”

Other bishops called for stronger outreach to members of Congress as it struggles to address comprehensive immigration reform and extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which covers 800,000 young adults who were brought to the United States as children.

“They need to hear from us,” Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn told the assembly. “There is an element of restrictionism, somewhat based on racism. It’s hard for people to decide what they think about it. But in fact that is what we are seeing. This is a crisis situation.”

Several bishops said it was imperative to do a better job of sharing church teaching on migration and welcoming the stranger, as Christ taught.

Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, Calif., expressed concern about a “very deliberate effort being made on the part of the administration, particularly the Department of Justice, to put in regulations that actually defy the implementation of immigration law.”

He urged the entire body of bishops to become more active in pushing Congress and the courts to understand longstanding American values and practices regarding the welcoming of immigrants.

“It just seems nefarious how the immigration system is being undone by more and more restrictive regulations that are being put in place,” he said.

One bishop asked about the possibility of “canonical penalties” being enforced on Catholics who cooperate with unjust immigration policies. Bishop Edwin J. Weisenburger of Tucson, Ariz., said such penalties are put in place to heal and “therefore, for the salvation of these people’s souls, maybe it’s time for us to look” at such action.

Beyond that, added Bishop John E. Stowe of Lexington, Ky., should be steps to offer broader pastoral care for immigration enforcement officials, some of whom he has heard from questioning the need to carry out “these unjust policies.”

The administration’s harder line on immigration has led to an unusual convergence between Catholic bishops and Southern Baptists, who have been highly supportive of Mr. Trump in recent polls. At the same time the nation’s Catholic bishops were huddling over the Trump White House’s immigration policies in Florida, in Dallas, delegates at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting overwhelmingly passed a resolution that similarly rebuked the Trump administration on immigration policy and its treatment of migrant families.

The resolution called for both secure borders and a “pathway to legal status” for undocumented migrants in the United States. The delegates urged that immigration policy respect the human dignity of migrants and the primacy of family unity.

“Longings to protect one’s family from warfare, violence, disease, extreme poverty, and other destitute conditions are universal,” the Southern Baptist resolution said, “driving millions of people to leave their homelands to seek a better life for themselves, their children, and their grandchildren.” The delegates urged the passage of immigration reform, noting that “[u]ntold numbers of men and women seeking to enter the United States legally, desiring to become good citizens of our country, often languish at the borders due to the complexity of our immigration system.”

“God commands His people to treat immigrants with the same respect and dignity as those native born,” the delegates agreed, adding in their resolution that: “Scripture is clear on the believer’s hospitality towards immigrants, stating that meeting the material needs of ‘strangers’ is tantamount to serving the Lord Jesus Himself.”

They also declared that “any form of nativism, mistreatment, or exploitation [of immigrants] is inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

With reporting from Catholic News Service

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Christopher Lochner
5 years 11 months ago

"Share Church teaching" ??? This is the answer the Bishops offer!!! Talk about talking the talk and not walking the walk. Perhaps America should offer insight from the Bishops as to a real world plan for dealing with the situation. They continue to kick the can towards someone else so as to fix the situation and attack Donald Trump without offering an attempt at a solution or doing anything on their own. We have many big empty churches; we can use them for temporary housing. We have a huge underused seminary in Baltimore. Use this to house the homeless and immigrants. Put your money where your mouth is or else just shut up. Too bad I'm not in Florida to tell them this.... but....They'd probably have me arrested for showing insolence to their oh-so-mighty status. All I ever hear from church leaders is a recitation of simplistic platitudes, never anything else. Growl!!

JR Cosgrove
5 years 11 months ago

Where is the bishop's immigration policy? Where is the Southern Baptist's immigration policy. Is the blame for the chaos at the border due to those who encourage this illegal migration into the United States?

Until there is a different immigration policy in law, what should be done? Maybe the bishops should meet with their Latin American contemporaries to come up with a plan to relocate these refugees into a culture like their own as opposed to the alien US culture.

Ashley Green
5 years 11 months ago

It is not necessary to have your own detailed alternative plan to propose in order to justly criticize an administration or governmental policy. What would be the point of the bishops submitting such a plan? Or for me to submit one? That doesn’t mean that we don’t have the right to criticize obvious instances of injustice and cruelty when we see it? These too are human beings made in the image of God.

John Hess
5 years 11 months ago

Taking children away from their parents is an act of purposeful, willful, unnecessary, and gratuitous cruelty inflicted on the helpless.. This is nothing but the blackest sin. This is never okay. The bishops need to take strong action. Perhaps by leading a demonstration on the mall in Washington.

E.Patrick Mosman
5 years 11 months ago

The Bishops and the Southern Baptist seem woefully ignorant as they either cannot or do not recognize the difference between legal and illegal immigration. The USA has immigration laws that uphold American values and practices.
The Bishops and Southern Baptists should be emphasizing that these refugees from the Middle East
and Africa are fleeing from the internecine 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 Pope Francis condemns as "bad,
unjust" and even worse. The Pope, the bishops and Baptists 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 must absorb them.

Ashley Green
5 years 11 months ago

The bishops do understand the difference between legal and illegal immigration, but it is beside the point. Deliberate cruelty toward those who are caught in a terrible and inhumane situation as a strategy to discourage them from seeking asylum is indefensible. As Christians, of whatever denomination, we are gravely obligated to be advocates for people in this and similar situations. We cannot eschew these obligations under the cover of some political talking point. Justice is neither liberal nor conservative, and we would be able to give much better Christian witness if we dropped those terms from our discourse. Too many people are thinking almost entirely along those parameters. Thus we end up with Christians supporting all kinds of anti Christian policies under such principles as “ a woman’s right to choose” and “what part of the word illegal do you not understand”? The human beings affected are forgotten or considered of secondary importance.

Eric Posern
5 years 11 months ago

Do you leave the door open to your home and welcome the trespasser? They are a stranger correct? It's just not your property it's the property of every citizen in the country that your now claiming doesn't belong to them, but the world.
The children likely came over on their own. We also, for some wrongful reason, treat them differently than parents in similar circumstance. Are you as welcoming with mules (and I'm not talking the animal kind)?
Are you as welcoming of sex traffickers and the narco culture that fundamentally undermines the Christianity in our country, in our schools when the parent is not around?
You sacrifice our little ones at the alter of open borders and one world government. Hypocrite.
If you wanted to help as a Christian, you would do the work yourself on the ground in the country of origin for these illegal immigrants, you would call for the Army to create peace and destroy the cartels and corruption in those countries. Instead you seek to destroy the only remaining means to fight what these illegal immigrant are running away from. Many of them are not running but exploiting to destroy us.

Vincent Gaglione
5 years 11 months ago

When I first heard that one bishop had suggested canonical penalties for participation in the destruction of family units, I was overjoyed. I figured at least one bishop had some moral values!

But on second thought, I realized how mistaken my initial reaction is. I opposed, and still do, the imposition of canonical penalties as was proposed and publicly discussed and threatened in the abortion debates. If I did then, I must now.

So what should be happening right now. I regard Cardinal Tobin as a positive influence on the USA hierarchy. I find his suggestion of a visit to the detention centers notable but not very assertive. We don’t need just “signs” of Catholic hierarchical concerns. We need some deliberate actions. How about a letter condemning the policy from USA Bishops read from every pulpit on the same Sunday? How about an instruction to USA Catholics that anyone in any way involved in such activities needs to meet with a pastor to discuss their moral duties and responsibilities to the victims in such situations? How about a cadre of clerical, religious and lay persons assigned by local Bishops to be present at the detention centers to ride herd over what is happening in them?

The Southern Baptists passed a resolution opposing the policies. Good for them, but they are doing nothing to implement their resolution. The net effect is meaningless. That’s why the Bishops need to do something communicative and actionable. Pope Francis welcomes immigrants, he places them in the Vatican. Doesn’t anybody else understand the significance of actions over words?

Stuart Meisenzahl
5 years 11 months ago

Kevin Clarke has written a series of articles archly critical of a so called Trump Policy separating the children of illegal aliens and asylum seekers upon the detention of their parent(s). These articles fail utterly to present the fact that their are legal imperatives imposed on the Immigration Services by the Courts which bring about this result.
In 1997 the Federal Government entered into a settlement of a ten year long court battle over the detention of minors at the border resulting from illegal entry. ...the Flores Settlement. That Settlement requires the release from detention as soon as possible of all minors to a parent residing in the US, another relative residing in the US, or an agency licensed to care for U he children. The Flores Settlement Agreement has been repeatedly reimposed on on the Immigration Services through Court suits brought against the Clinton, the Obama ,and the Trump administrations. The Obama Administration resolved the problem by its so called "Catch and Release Program". Required Separation of children from their parent becomes moot if you just release the parent!.
But the Obama Administration then ran into problems when the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors began crossing the border . In a suit brought against Loretta Lynch (another Flores Case) , the Ninth Circuit made it clear that the Flores Settlement Release Requirement applied to both accompanied and unaccompanied minors as well.
All of the Flores cases have been decided by the Ninth Circuit, unquestionably the most liberal bench in the United States.
There is no special Trump policy requiring separation of children. The existing law requires that if the parent is detained then the minor children must be released without undue delay. The Flores Settlement word is "release"....the political word is "separate". In context these different words unquestionably mean the same thing.

E.Patrick Mosman
5 years 11 months ago

A Civil Rights Commissioner Weighs In On Children at the Border
On Friday, U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Peter Kirsanow wrote to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on the subject of separating families who enter the country illegally at the southern border. Peter’s letter is as clear an explanation of the issue as I have seen. It is so cogent that I am duplicating it here, as well as embedding it below via Scribd:
Dear Attorney General Sessions and Secretary Nielsen:
I write as one member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and not on behalf of the Commission as a whole. The majority of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has issued a statement condemning the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security for separating parents and children who cross the border illegally.1 The reason parents and children are separated is the law: When an adult illegal alien is prosecuted for unlawful entry, that person is taken into the custody of the U.S. Marshals and the children are taken into custody by HHS. Nonetheless, unless the adult applies for asylum, the unlawful entry is resolved relatively quickly and the separation is brief. But if the adult applies for asylum, the process–-and separation–is lengthier. That is because the 1997 Flores Consent Decree (and the Ninth Circuit’s interpretation thereof) stipulates that children may be held no more than twenty days. The asylum process is much longer.
If the U.S. were detaining the children with their parents, the Commission majority would surely issue a statement condemning the Departments for detaining children. Thus, the only way to avoid separating children from illegal alien parents that would be acceptable to the Commission majority would be to release both parents and children into the U.S., contrary to law. The bottom line is that the Commission majority is opposed to enforcing almost any immigration laws pertaining to illegal entry.

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