Catholics from around the country will spend the coming days protesting the Trump administration’s treatment of families entering the United States illegally and learning more about challenges facing these migrants. A number of protests will take place this weekend and a group of bishops, including the head of the U.S. bishops conference, will visit the border early next week.
On Saturday, as part of a nationwide protest against a Trump administration policy that separated children from their parents who had entered the United States illegally, more than two dozen events are beingorganized by groups with connections to Jesuit parishes and universities.
In Ann Arbor, Mich., members of St. Mary Student Parish will join a protest at the University of Michigan. In Los Angeles, people from Loyola Marymount University will march to the city’s federal building carrying a banner that reads, “Bienvenidos Inmigrantes y Refugiados.” And in the nation’s capital, parishioners from Holy Trinity Catholic Church will march to Lafayette Square, near the White House, to protest immigration policies.
A group of bishops, including the head of the U.S. bishops conference, will visit the border early next week.
Under President Trump’s policy, the government has begun prosecuting all migrants caught entering the country without authorization. Mr. Trump has halted his policy of taking children from their detained parents under public pressure, but around 2,000 of them are still being held, with many families saying they do not know how to locate them.
While the administration has promised to stop separating children from their parents, it is unclear how families will be reunited, because migrants are first stopped by Customs and Border Protection. Then children are transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, while adults are detained through Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is under the Department of Homeland Security.
“If as a church and as people of faith we aren’t willing to speak out about something like this, I'm not sure what we would be willing to speaking out about,” Chris Kerr, executive director of Ignatian Solidarity Network, told America, adding that separating families is “a direct attack on who we are as Catholics and Christians.”
In El Paso, The Hope Border Institute is co-sponsoring a march along with other Catholic entities to protest immigration policies that separate families.
The protests are linked to a nationwide day of action to be held Saturday, where rallies will take place in hundreds of cities across the country as part of the “Families Belong Together” campaign.
Then on Monday, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will visit Brownsville, Tex., with a delegation of other bishops. The delegation will “offer reflections on engagements with the Catholic community, U.S. government officials and Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley organizations on the issue of family separation,” the U.S.C.C.B. said in a press release on Friday.
Catholic bishops have held events for a number of years on the U.S.-Mexico border highlighting what they say are injustices present in U.S. immigration policy. Cardinal Seán O’Malley led a group of bishops to the border in 2014. Two years later, during his visit to Mexico, Pope Francis visited the border and, facing the United States and a group of migrants gathered in El Paso, offered a silent prayer for those whose lives have been upended by the need to leave their countries. Most recently, earlier this month, bishops from California and Mexico celebrated Mass together, separated by a section of border fence.
Cardinal Joseph Tobin told fellow bishops during their spring meeting earlier this month that a trip to the border should be undertaken to visit holding facilities where separated children are being housed.
He said such a visit would serve “as a sign of our pastoral concern and protest against the hardening of the American heart.”
A number of women representing various Christian traditions gathered in Brownsville earlier this week, part of a protest meant to bring attention to the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents.
As thousands rallied in #Brownsville, my fellow women clergy and I led the push to the courthouse to bear witness to the injustice of policies that are tearing families apart. #FaithOnTheBorder#FamiliesBelongTogetherpic.twitter.com/wfiLpiCtOn— Rev. Jen Butler (@RevJenButler) June 29, 2018
As part of their visit, the group visited Sister Norma Pimentel, an immigration advocate who heads the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. On Wednesday, the group held a prayer service in front of the McAllen Station Central Processing Center. More than 8,000 women, including hundreds of Catholic sisters, signed an open letter addressed to the director of homeland security calling for an end to family separation.
“We want to pray for the children inside and for the families,” said the Rev. Jennifer Butler, C.E.O. of Faith in Public Life, according to a press release. “We know that you are a loving God. You’ve told us that whatever we do the least of these, we do to you.”
In a separate event in El Paso, Sister Simone Campbell, head of the social justice organization Network, was part of a group that tried unsuccessfully to visit a detention center housing child migrants.
Wanted to share about my trip to the border this week. Reflections on My Trip to the Border https://t.co/MBlV4DR4bc— Sr. Simone Campbell (@sr_simone) June 28, 2018
“We are failing to act justly. We as a nation are not loving. Our leadership is not walking humbly. We must repent and change our course of action,” Sister Campbell wrote in a reflection about her visit.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.