Washington, D.C. – On February 24, 2017 representatives from twelve national Catholic religious orders and advocacy organizations signed a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly.
The letter began, “As leaders representing national Catholic advocacy organizations and religious orders, we are deeply troubled by the pattern of arrests, detentions and deportations of undocumented immigrants across the nation – including violating the previous policy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) not to conduct enforcement actions at or near “sensitive locations,” including churches and their ministries to the poor and vulnerable.”
Religious leaders expressed concern that these policies take away human dignity and sow seeds of conflict between our nation and our churches, synagogues, and mosques, threaten religious freedom, and criminalize and penalize acts of charity toward immigrants and their families. They are a result of “political divisions that have placed ideologies and self-interest above genuine concern for the most vulnerable human beings.”
In response to these troubling policies, religious leaders, including Columban Father Tim Mulroy, the U.S. Regional Director of the Missionary Society of St. Columban, and Scott Wright, the Director of the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, and many more from our partner organizations, used their voice to demonstrate how our faith calls us to speak out and stand up for the most vulnerable.
Reverend Tim Mulroy, SSC U.S. Regional Director, Missionary Society of St. Columban said, "As an international organization of priests and lay Christians, we, the Missionary Society of St. Columban, have a long history of caring for migrants and refugees. For the past 20 years, we have worked on both sides of the U.S. - Mexico border and in California with immigrant families, irrespective of their legal status. We are deeply troubled by the recent enforcement actions of immigration authorities, which have torn apart families and created suffering and terror in immigrant communities. As messengers of the Gospel, we are called not to reject immigrants and refugees, but to welcome them as we would welcome Christ. We are called to respond to prejudice with understanding, to suffering with compassion, and to fear with love."
CMSM President Fr. Brian Terry, SA: "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' The very words of Jesus' parable ring in my ears. I cannot imagine the pain filled eyes of the six vulnerable men who joyfully escaped the death of a cold night because of the care of a loving Church, only to be imprisoned as they exited... by the cold steel of handcuffs, a freezing cold steel of terror and despair which would go right into your soul."
Sister Marie Lucey, OSF Associate Director, Franciscan Action Network: The anti-immigrant, anti-refugee rhetoric of the Trump administration are enacted in recent Executive Orders which are cloaked in language of assuring public safety. We Franciscans deplore the true intent and false messaging of these orders. The recent DHS enforcement memos, under your guidance, Secretary Kelly, have the immigrant community living in fear. Driving millions of immigrants back into the shadows, making them afraid of reporting real crimes, lessens, not strengthens, public safety. More important, extreme enforcement measures are a violation of human dignity and the Gospel commands of love and compassion. As fellow Catholic Christians, and as Franciscans who see everyone as brother and sister, we urge you, Secretary Kelly, not to yield to the worst instincts of the Administration which contradict both faith and American values.
"We are deeply concerned about the DHS enforcement memo issued earlier this week. Increased enforcement and indiscriminate deportations threaten border communities, force our immigrant community members deeper into the shadows, and endanger those fleeing violence and seeking asylum in this country," said Joan Marie Steadman, CSC, executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. "Women religious will continue to heed the gospel call to welcome refugees and minister to immigrants, whatever their status. LCWR will continue to press for relief for families and an end to needless deportations and we will persist in our advocacy for compassionate, bipartisan legislation that fixes our broken immigration system."
"This memo is antithetical to our call as Catholics, a faith we share with Secretary Kelly, to love our neighbor. Frankly, Secretary Kelly's guidance criminalizes our undocumented sisters and brothers and will make our communities less safe and secure. I urge Secretary Kelly to resist the hateful rhetoric and policies of President Trump and guide his department in way that promotes the dignity of ALL people, including immigrants. Such an approach will be good for our nation and our people. It is the faithful-and patriotic-thing to do." -- Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice.
"Your words and actions, Mr. President, are causing fear among a population already vulnerable and living on the margin. With all qualifications removed, all undocumented immigrants are subject to expedited removal. With all prosecutorial discretion removed, all undocumented immigrants are subject to fast-track deportation. Please reconsider your words and actions and respect those who have chosen the United States above all other countries to love and honor," -- Larry Couch, Director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.
Sister Patricia McDermott, RSM, President, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas: "Our Sisters of Mercy directly working with immigrants share how they are in a panic. Immigrants are afraid to leave their homes, to take public transportation or go to school. One sister is trying to find volunteers to drive immigrants to appointments, but the volunteers are now afraid of being arrested for helping them. Youth are worried that their parents will be picked up. If a woman is a victim of domestic violence, she is afraid to call the sheriff. The situation is inhuman and cruel. One of our ministries is even preparing to go into lockdown if ICE approaches."
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