Sunday, January 29, 2017

Catholic Leaders Express Solidarity with Refugees and Immigrants

Most of the time, when the Catholic Church warrants mention at Republic of Gilead, it's for negative reasons. This evening, I must begrudgingly give credit where credit is due. Several Catholic leaders are expressing solidarity with refugees and immigrants in the wake of Trump's executive orders increasing deportation forces, mandating the construction of a border wall, and restricting refugee entry into the U.S. Archbishops and service providers across the U.S. are releasing statements criticizing Trump's refugee plans and urging compassion toward refugees.

First, Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, stated that "While I certainly appreciate the importance of vetting to insure the safety of our country, I also believe we must treat those who are most vulnerable with compassion and mercy and with hearts willing to be opened wide in the face of dire human need." In a January 27th press release, Catholic Charities USA affirmed its commitment to assisting immigrants and refugees.
"The Catholic Church in the United States has always assisted refugees and migrants coming to our country, regardless of their country of origin. At the same time, the US has historically opposed those leaders who oppressed or tortured their citizens. How can we now justify closing our borders to their innocent victims?

Catholic Charities will continue to advocate on behalf of people who are poor and marginalized, of all faiths, as our agencies continue to provide them with service, compassion and care."
In a January 27th press release, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration expressed disapproval of the executive order on refugees. Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, chairman of the Committee on Migration, had this to say.
"We strongly disagree with the Executive Order's halting refugee admissions. We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope. We will continue to engage the new administration, as we have all administrations for the duration of the current refugee program, now almost forty years. We will work vigorously to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed in collaboration with Catholic Charities without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans, and to ensure that families may be reunified with their loved ones.


Today, more than 65 million people around the world are forcibly displaced from their homes. Given this extraordinary level of suffering, the U.S. Catholic Bishops will redouble their support for, and efforts to protect, all who flee persecution and violence, as just one part of the perennial and global work of the Church in this area of concern."
In a January 29th press release, Chicago Archbishop Blase J. Cupich called this weekend "a dark moment in U.S. history", calling the executive order an affront to both American and Catholic values.
"This weekend proved to be a dark moment in U.S. history. The executive order to turn away refugees and to close our nation to those, particularly Muslims, fleeing violence, oppression and persecution is contrary to both Catholic and American values.  Have we not repeated the disastrous decisions of those in the past who turned away other people fleeing violence, leaving certain ethnicities and religions marginalized and excluded? We Catholics know that history well, for, like others, we have been on the other side of such decisions.

These actions impose a sweeping and immediate halt on migrants and refugees from several countries, people who are suffering, fleeing for their lives. Their design and implementation have been rushed, chaotic, cruel and oblivious to the realities that will produce enduring security for the United States. They have left people holding valid visas and other proper documents detained in our airports, sent back to the places some were fleeing or not allowed to board planes headed here. Only at the eleventh hour did a federal judge intervene to suspend this unjust action."
Cupich reminded readers that barring refugees is already corroding America's values.
"The world is watching as we abandon our commitments to American values. These actions give aid and comfort to those who would destroy our way of life. They lower our estimation in the eyes of the many peoples who want to know America as a defender of human rights and religious liberty, not a nation that targets religious populations and then shuts its doors on them."
In a January 27th press release, Newark Archbishop Cardinal Joseph Tobin urged the federal government to adopt a "prudent" policy for protecting citizens. He slammed Trump's executive orders on immigration as contrary to American values.
"Wednesday’s Executive Actions do not show the United States to be an open and welcoming nation.  They are the opposite of what it means to be an American. 

Closing borders and building walls are not rational acts.  Mass detentions and wholesale deportation benefit no one; such inhuman policies destroy families and communities.

In fact, threatening the so-called “sanctuary cities” with the withdrawal of federal funding for vital services such as healthcare, education and transportation will not reduce immigration.  It only will harm all good people in those communities."
Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron reaffirmed his opposition to discriminatory policies in a January 28th statement, expressing solidarity with immigrants and refugees.
"I wrote to you a little over a year ago to share with you my statement to the priests of our Archdiocese regarding a proposal made during the presidential campaign to restrict Muslim immigration to the United States. At that time, I reaffirmed my commitment to stand with you in opposing any and all unjust discrimination on the basis of religion. Today, I reaffirm that pledge ... Please know that the Catholic community will continue to speak out and care for immigrants and refugees, no matter their religion or their country of origin."
In a January 26th statement, St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda acknowledged the anxiety that many Catholic feel in the wake of Trump's immigration orders. He stressed "the importance of treating our undocumented brothers and sisters with the dignity that is theirs as children of God."
"I know that many in our Archdiocese are experiencing fear and anxiety after President Trump’s recent executive orders implementing his plans to expand and fortify the existing wall between the United States and Mexico, to increase immigration deportation and detention, and to punish cities and counties that choose not to cooperate with federal deportation efforts. This is clearly a moment for continuing our prayers not only for the immigrants and refugees who call our Archdiocese home, but also for our parishes who are discerning ways of responding to this situation and for our government leaders at all levels who are called to work for the common good.

The Catholic bishops of the United States have recognized that this is a moment for comprehensive immigration reform and have repeatedly called for collaboration between the White House and our lawmakers in the House and Senate to work together to this end. While recognizing the right of countries to protect their borders and to regulate immigration in a way that is fair and promotes public safety, the Church has repeatedly underlined the importance of treating our undocumented brothers and sisters with the dignity that is theirs as children of God."
While Catholic leaders seemed pleased with Trump's reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy and Mike Pence's presence at the 2017 March for Life, his anti-immigration and anti-refugee policies ran afoul of service providers and bishops. The Trump administration may soon realize that support from Catholics is far from assured, especially on a range of social issues. Should the administration press forward with even more anti-immigration and anti-refugee plans, it may alienate Catholic communities even more.

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