Bishops, Catholic groups worry about consequences of partial travel ban

| Rhina Guidos | June 27, 2017 | 1 Comment

People are seen outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington June 7. CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration said the country’s Catholic bishops are “deeply concerned” about the consequences of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to allow a partial ban on foreign nationals as it reviews the constitutionality of a wider ban.

“Today’s decision will have human consequences,” said Bishop Joe Vasquez, of Austin, Texas, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement that in October it will hear a case involving President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which seeks to delay entry into the country by immigrants, including refugees, from six majority-Muslim countries. It also seeks to suspend, for a time, the entry of all refugees.

The court announced June 26 that until its hears the case in the fall and weighs a decision, it would allow part of the ban to be implemented and some “foreign nationals” will be barred from entering the country, but that determination will be made depending on the applicant’s previous relationships with a person or institution in the U.S. The administration says it needs to implement the ban while it reviews the refugee resettlement program and its vetting procedures.

Bishop Vasquez said the bishops are “deeply concerned about the welfare of the many other vulnerable populations who will now not be allowed to arrive and seek protection during the proscribed pause, most notably certain individuals fleeing religious persecution and unaccompanied refugee children.”

He urged the Trump administration to include refugee service providers as well as national security and immigration experts in a timely, transparent and efficient review of the existing refugee resettlement program.

“We believe it is vital to utilize the full expertise of the existing resettlement program when conducting such an important evaluation,” he said in a statement issued late June 26.

The court said the partial ban it has allowed to go forward allows “foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States” to apply for entry, but “all other foreign nationals are subject to the provisions of (the executive order).”

That means a person with family or a nexus with an organization, such as a university or employer, is not affected by the ban.

The court seemed to be taking into consideration the hardships the ban would create for an “American party,” such as a family member, whose relatives are denied entry, or for a university or employer, while also trying to consider the administration’s arguments that it’s necessary to do so in the interest of national security.

Denying entry to immigrants with no connection to the country “does not burden any American party,” the court said. And though the order is seeking to cap the number of refugees allowed into the country at 50,000, the court said that if a person with one of the previously mentioned connections to the U.S. is seeking refuge, “such as a person may not be excluded … even if the 50,000 has been reached or exceeded.”

Groups such as Catholic Relief Services, the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States, expressed disappointment with the ruling.

“This ruling will devastate some of the most vulnerable people in the world, innocent people who are fleeing the exact kind of violence that this executive order seeks to protect against,” said Bill O’Keefe, CRS’ vice president for government relations and advocacy. “The facts tell us that that these refugees already undergo significant vetting – more than anyone who enters the United States — and none has gone on to commit acts of violence.”

It also reinforces the false idea that refugees are dangerous, O’Keefe said.

“We outright reject the idea that refugees are implicitly dangerous,” he said. “At a time of such unprecedented need around the world, we should be doing more to help and resettle those who are in danger and need, not less.”

Christopher G. Kerr, executive director of Ignatian Solidarity Network, a national social justice education and advocacy organization based in Ohio, said the high court’s decision “does not reflect our country’s spirit of compassion and welcome.”

“When we create uncertainty for those seeking safety from conflict and persecution, we compromise their dignity as fellow people of God,” said Kerr. “We continue to stand with those seeking refuge and safety here in the United States.”

The troubled executive order went into litigation almost as soon as it was issued Jan. 27, just a week into the new president’s term. It was revised in March, but those revisions, too, have faced legal challenges.

In a statement after the court’s announcement, Trump said the high court’s decision was a “clear victory” for national security.

“It allows the travel suspension for the six terror-prone countries and the refugee suspension to become largely effective,” he said.

In a partial dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas said he worried that “the court’s remedy will prove unworkable” and that the “compromise will burden executive officials with the task of deciding — on peril of contempt — whether individuals from the six affected nations who wish to enter the United States have a sufficient connection to a person or entity in this country.”

It also may “invite a flood of litigation until this case is finally resolved,” he said.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision came a day before it ended its current term. The new court term begins in October.

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  • Charles C.

    Why do “Bishops, Catholic Groups” keep saying things that are so contrary to truth? It hurts their reputation and, by extension, the reputation of the Church.

    “The facts tell us that that these refugees already undergo significant
    vetting – more than anyone who enters the United States — and none has
    gone on to commit acts of violence.” (Bill O’Keefe, Vice-President, Catholic Relief Services)

    “Significant vetting” apparently means asking the individual if he intends to blow himself up at a Twins’ game. The head of both the FBI and Homeland Security testified in October of 2015 that the vetting of Syrian refugees has significant problems because there is little American intelligence on who all of the bad actors are in that country, and the nonexistence of many individual records due to the fighting. But to trumpet, yet again “none has gone on to commit acts of violence,” shows a disdain for “The Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth.”

    Leon Rodriguez, the Director, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, testified on September 29, 2016 (nine months ago):

    “There are individuals who came a long time ago before our modern
    procedures, but since Sept. 11, all we have had is conspiracies – not
    only by refugees, but in fact by U.S.-born persons, other kinds of
    immigrants. It’s really an equal opportunity world,” he added.

    Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), chairman of the subcommittee, asked Rodriguez, “You don’t count conspiracies?”

    “They’re
    not actual acts of violence. They were effectively disrupted by U.S.
    law enforcement, is my point, sir,” Rodriguez responded.

    Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) told Rodriguez about a report done by Fordham University Law School’s Center on National Security on ISIS prosecutions in the U.S.

    “They
    looked at all ISIS prosecutions in the United States and determined
    that of those involved in that, 18 percent were refugees or asylees.
    Shouldn’t that be of enormous concern to all of us?” Vitter asked
    Rodriguez.

    “Without a doubt. Yes,” Rodriguez responded.

    “My question is: Isn’t that a very big percentage? 18 percent.” Vitter asked a moment later.

    “One percent would be a big percentage. This is an area of significant concern,” Rodriguez said.

    “Now
    a few minutes ago, you touted and made a big deal in your testimony, or
    perhaps in response to a question, that since 9/11 there has been no
    person who came in as an adult in the refugee program who was convicted
    of a violent terrorist offense. Now that’s great, but that was a very
    carefully crafted statement. There are many people who came in as adults
    in the refugee program who’ve been convicted of terrorist offenses,
    correct?” Vitter asked.

    “That is correct,” Rodriguez replied.

    “Now,
    we’re all happy that those plots were disrupted, but in terms of
    security threats possibly posed by the refugee program, those cases are
    darn relevant, aren’t they? Just as relevant as a successful violent
    attack?” Vitter asked.

    “Oh, sure they are, and they inform a
    number of the improvements that we made over the years. Many of those
    cases involve admissions that took place a while ago, and even in the
    last four to five years, there have been significant changes in the way
    that we vet refugees that makes a difference,” Rodriguez said.

    “So,
    just to clarify your earlier statement, again you touted nobody came in
    through the refugee program as an adult who committee a violent act,
    but there sure were those who came in, who were convicted of terrorist
    offenses,” Vitter said.

    “I was transparent about that. That’s correct,” Rodriguez said.

    It seems to me that Mr. O’Keefe was intentionally trying to create a false impression in the minds of his listeners. That seems mighty darn close to lying to me.

    And what can we possibly make of the claim that the ruling is against American values, that it is un-American? No Justice of the Court, not Ginsburg, or Sotomayor, or anybody filed a dissent to the decision. Even the partial dissent was only to the effect that the Court didn’t go far enough in supporting Trump’s order.

    To say that a unanimous decision by this Supreme Court doesn’t reflect American values is breathtakingly brazen. The Court pointed out that an alien with no tie to the United States does not have a Constitutional right to enter the country, and that the power of the Executive Branch is at it’s peak in deciding such questions. To say that the decision violates American values is to say that the Constitution violates American values, or, to put it more succinctly, America is un-American.

    Granted, some “Bishops, Catholic Groups” such as Catholics United to Canonize Mao, and The Karl Marx Social Justice Warrior study groups, would like to see the Constitution replaced, but that, if it please God, will not happen.