Catholic organizations oppose Trump actions on border wall, sanctuary communities

| January 26, 2017 | 5 Comments

A photo taken in 2016 shows a newly built section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall at Sunland Park, N.M., opposite the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. President Donald Trump enacted two executive memorandums to deal with security, including one that calls for construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters

Catholic organizations expressed distress and unease with President Donald J. Trump’s actions related to immigration while pledging to continue serving and supporting migrant people.

The reactions came within hours of Trump’s signing of executive memorandums on national security Jan. 25 during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security. The memorandums authorized the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and directed John F. Kelly, secretary of homeland security, to look at how federal funding streams can be cut for cities and states that illegally harbor those in the country without legal permission.

Agencies cited the words of Pope Francis in criticizing the president’s actions and pledged to support and serve migrants in the United States.

“Pope Francis has urged people not to close the door on migrants and refugees,” Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, said in a statement. “In concert with the Holy Father, we believe we must move from attitudes of defensiveness and fear to acceptance, compassion and encounter.

“As the U.S. Catholic bishops have said, this is not an either/or situation for us,” Sister Donna added. “We can protect our citizens and, at the same time, we can welcome newcomers. Our commitment to care for those who are most vulnerable resides at the core of our faith.”

Catholic Charities USA also will continue to work for comprehensive immigration reform, Sister Donna said.

The PICO National Network, the largest network of congregations and faith-based groups in the country, including Catholics, challenged the executive memorandum on sanctuary cities.

“Retaliating against local communities because they refuse to follow immoral policies is part of an emerging pattern of President Trump of not only bullying people who dare to disagree with him, but isolating and further marginalizing people who are different than him,” said Eddie Carmona, campaign director for PICO National Network’s LA RED campaign. “Such behavior is inconsistent with the long-held notion that America was a place of opportunity for all.”

Sister Simone Campbell, a Sister of Social Service and executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization, called the presidential orders “antithetical to our faith.”

“When Nuns on the Bus visited the U.S.-Mexico border in 2014, we walked along the wall and listened to the stories of communities that have been torn apart for decades. That is the reality experienced by border communities: The wall is there and it affects the daily life and commerce of the people.

“Federal appropriations for border security have grown to $3.8 billion in FY2015, from $263 million in FY1990, and fencing exists for hundreds of miles along our southern border,” she said in a statement.

The Washington-based Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach recalled Pope Francis’ words at the close of the Year of Mercy that concluded in November in which he decried a global “epidemic of animosity and violence” toward strangers, immigrants and refugees who often are considered a threat.

Trump’s signings “presents false and inhumane responses” to the harsh reality of poverty, violence and conflict that cause people to migrate, the center said in a statement.

“As people of faith, we are called to both address the root causes of migration and seek policies of welcome toward our migrant sisters and brothers. We stand against any policies that seek to build a wall, inhumanely detain women and families, end sanctuary cities, conduct immigration raids, limit migration based on a person’s country of origin and further militarize the border,” the statement added.

Pax Christi USA sided with “our immigrant brothers and sisters living in fear of deportation and separation from their families.”

“No one flees their countries of origin on a whim,” a statement from the Catholic peace organization said. “We honor the multiplicity of reasons people migrate to the United States, many of which are poverty, gang violence and terror. People are not the enemy, but that is the myth we are being told by President Trump. Building a wall is the visual symbol of these political lies.”

The Franciscan Action Network expressed concern that the country would be turning its back on refugees after Trump’s actions.

“The Gospels call us to welcome the stranger, so as people of faith we advocate and support the rights and dignity of all people,” Patrick Carolan, the Franciscan network’s executive director, said in a statement. “The United States was built by immigrants and we must continue to protect our immigrant and refugee sisters and brothers and keep families together.”

The U.S. cannot be blinded to the despair of migrants and refugees, including those from Syria and different faith traditions, said Gerry Lee, executive director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.

“Pope Francis proclaimed that ‘refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women, and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes … the flesh of Christ is in the flesh of the refugees.’ The faithful response is not to build a wall or to discriminate against Muslims, but to open our hearts and our homes to refugees of all faiths in recognition of our sacred call to protect and nourish life. If we refuse to welcome refugees in urgent need, we risk becoming like those we claim to deplore,” Lee said.

Several churches, faith-based advocacy groups and interfaith programs joined the Catholic groups in criticizing the administration’s plans. Among them were Alliance of Baptists, American Jewish World Service, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Interfaith Alliance, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Muslim Public Affairs Council, National Association of Evangelicals, National Council of Churches, National Council of Jewish Women, Presbyterian Church (USA), Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ and United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society.


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  • Follower

    This is a simplistic arguement and a fallacy of logic.

    Our legally elected President is attempting to deal with ILLEGAL immigration only and TEMPORARILY halting immigration for security reasons UNTIL a better way of vetting is established. He has stated many times now that he is not rounding up ‘dreamers’ or those families who are here and not engaging on other criminal activities.

    I think these organizations and our bishops need to tamp the fear-mongering down about ten notches.

    It would also be good to re-read the Gospels where Jesus tells the two Apsotles who were once Zealots, who believed the Messiah would overthrow the Roman government, or those who complained that Mary wasted money by pouring perfume on His feet and ought to have sold it and used the money for the poor, that those were not the reasons He came and were not His mission.

  • DebraBrunsberg

    What has gotten lost in all of this is the issue of illegal immigrants. Every country in the world has immigration policies and every country in the world tries to have control of their borders. The United States should be no different. We have people who wait decades to come here legally, while millions just stroll across our borders. I work in social services and truly, if people saw what I see, they would be volunteering to stand guard on our borders. I can’t help but wonder how breaking the law fits into our Catholic faith. Is that not a sin?

    • Dominic Deus

      Debra–No, what has gotten lost in the teaching of Christ to shelter the stranger, feed the hungry, cloth the naked. Indeed, controlled immigration is a legitimate task of government. Caring for those in need is ours. I am curious–what is the guiding principle of your social work? for that matter, how do you define it.

      • Charles C.

        Dear Dominic,

        As the most easily confused of the posters here, I come asking for a clarification. You said that controlled immigration is a legitimate task of government. By “controlled immigration” do you mean placing restrictions on who may enter?

        If so, what restrictions would you accept?

        If not, then it what sense would it be controlled?

        • Dominic Deus

          Dear Charles,

          I want to nominate myself most frequently confused! You will recognize this post as a “copy and paste” form a post I just finished on another thread. Best to display my ignorance for all to see:

          “I feel very strongly that we are obligated to do our share in welcoming refugees, even to the point of accepting whatever reasonable risk there might be that a small number of them may break the law or even commit terrorist acts. I think a courageous people do exactly that when evil threatens.

          With regard to the specific questions you raised, I know that deportation of visitors, loss of green card status and even naturalized citizenship can be revoked under specified circumstances. Paragraph 2241 acknowledges this when it states the host nation “may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions.”

          As to routine immigration, my opinion as of now is that the regular system of quotas combined with compassionate exceptions is pretty good. Illegal immigration is a whole other mess that needs addressing.”

          It’s midnight. I can fell myself turning into a pumpkin.