Newark’s Cardinal Tobin joins Catholics protesting immigration detention

| Rhina Guidos | September 4, 2019 | 0 Comments
Religious groups protest outside the federal building in Newark, N.J.

Religious groups protest outside the federal building in Newark, N.J., Sept. 4, 2019, in support of humane immigration reform. Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark was among those gathered and led the chant: “Stop the Inhumanity!” CNS photo/Jai Agnish for the Newark Archdiocese

Archbishop Hebda sends letter of support

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, blessed and then prayed near a group of Catholics who blocked a crosswalk, arranging themselves in the shape of a cross in front of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Newark Sept. 4, to protest the detention of children and families in immigration facilities.

About 400 participated in the event, which included a procession toward the ICE building as the Newark archbishop led the crowd in a chant of “stop the inhumanity.”

“I am Joseph, your brother, who has been heartbroken by the inhumanity,” Cardinal Tobin had said earlier as he called for a stop to immigration detention of children and their families.

“I ask Catholics and others of goodwill to contact their elected officials and urge them not to manipulate immigrant families as political pawns,” he said.

As the group protested in front of the facility, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General was releasing a report warning that migrant children separated from their parents “exhibited more fear, feelings of abandonment and post-traumatic stress” than migrant children who had not been separated from their loved ones.

“According to those who treat them, many children enter the (immigration) facilities after fleeing violence and experiencing direct threats to their safety during their journey to the United States,” the report said. “Some children also experienced the trauma of being unexpectedly separated from their parents as a result of U.S. immigration policies.”

The Catholic protesters and activists as well as the cardinal spoke against the separations, whether at the border or after the deportation of a parent.

“Children will bear the trauma wrought by immigration enforcement raids, separation from their families, and indeterminate detention,” Cardinal Tobin said. “These draconian measures are not, they are not, a solution to our broken immigration system. They are violations of human dignity and are contrary to all religious teachings and the sacred call to care for our most vulnerable populations. Unlike others, we don’t have to look up Bible verses to justify the building of walls. There are none.”

Though they didn’t attend physically, several bishops sent statements supporting the Newark event, which the group Faith in Action said is part of an ongoing national campaign “developed by a Catholic Coalition of organizations to pressure the Trump administration and Congress to end the policies and practices that routinely traumatize children, particularly the policy of child and family detention.”

The first event took place in Washington on July 18 and a third gathering is set for Oct. 11-13 in El Paso, Texas, said Eli McCarthy, director of justice and peace at the Conference of Major Superiors of Men.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis sent a letter of support for the event, saying the faithful of his archdiocese know too well “the heartache and anxiety that are often the byproduct of our broken immigration system.”

The archbishop, who served as coadjutor bishop of Newark from 2013 to 2015, assured those gathered of his gratitude and prayers for them and for their effort, and of a shared “commitment to working for the change that Christ-centered justice requires.”

Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory also wrote in support of the event, saying Christians must recognize and respond to the face of Christ in migrants and refugees, raise public awareness and press for positive action by authorities at the border, in Congress and in the Trump administration.

A 27-year-old named Liborio Adorno, who said he was brought to the U.S. as a 7-year-old without legal documents, spoke to the crowd.

“It’s pretty sad for me to see the pictures of children and babies because I identify with them,” he said. “I came when the immigration crackdown wasn’t as bad, and it forces me to think: What if I had crossed later?”

These days, he organizes communities via the Cosecha Movement, he said, in hopes that others recognize the humanity of those like his family.

Though Cardinal Tobin was the only prelate present, several groups of women religious and lay groups attended, including the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, the Sisters of St. Joseph, the Sisters of Bon Secours, the Ignatian Solidarity Network and several Franciscans and Jesuits.

Sister Ann Scholz, associate director for social mission for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, spoke of the history of women religious as members of immigrant communities who also served those communities. Their action in the modern immigration battle is a continuation of work that began long ago, she said.

“We have joined the tens of thousands who are outraged at the horrific treatment of immigrant children and families by our own government,” she said. “We are here today to say loudly and clearly, stop the inhumanity. The mistreatment of children, the separation of families, the denigration of our immigrant brothers and sisters done in our name must stop.”

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