Crisis at the Border: Compassionate Presence not Zero Tolerance

Kansas City Province Leadership Team Statement

“Preserve family unity as a cornerstone of our national immigration system.”
Kansas City Province Corporate Stance
Comprehensive Reform of the Immigration System

June 2016

This past week, the images of children being incarcerated in cages and separated from their parents have been heartbreaking. The stories of parents wondering where their children are and of children crying out for their mama and papa have wrenched the hearts of many around the world. The sounds of children crying out for their parents echo the “voice heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping” and of mothers crying for their children like “Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted (Jer. 31, 15).”

As the Director of Justice and Peace for the Kansas City Province, Companion Gabino Zavala, in his letter to the community on June 1, 2018, warned of this “zero tolerance” policy announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on May 7 of “our government’s policy of forcibly tearing children away from their parents who have crossed the border illegally with their small children…separating the most fragile among us from their parents.” Though President Trump rescinded his own administration’s shameful policy of separating parents from children on Wednesday, there are still thousands of children dispersed at shelters throughout the United States who have not been reunited with their parents; and parents who have no idea where their children are.

This is a cruel and callous policy of exclusion and incarceration. Though the president has reversed the policy of separating children from their parents under public pressure and worldwide criticism, he has kept in place the “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting every immigrant who comes into this country illegally. And now there are reports of the administration setting up “internment camps” on military bases to house the detained men, women, and children who are seeking shelter from the storms of violence in their homelands.

Let us not forget that families seeking asylum and refuge in this country are making a long and arduous journey and taking enormous risks because violence and poverty in their own countries has become dangerous and intolerable. According to the Washington Post, “Since 2014, hundreds of thousands of children and families have fled to the United States because of rampant violence and gang activity in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.” To deny these men, women and children asylum in the United States because of “zero tolerance,” to threaten them with prosecution and deportation, is to send them back to the violence they seek to escape.

At the Kansas City Provincial Assembly in 2016, the Members and Companions endorsed a corporate stance for Comprehensive Reform of the Immigration System. In our statement, we said we are “motivated by the Gospel (‘For I was a stranger and you welcomed me,’ Matthew 25, 35)” and “inspired by our founder, St. Gaspar, who implored his missionaries, ‘Please, I urge you not to abandon the poor who are the image of Jesus Christ.’” We acknowledged that “we are a nation of immigrants” and affirmed “the rights of immigrants to be treated with dignity and respect.”

In our corporate stance, we called our nation’s leaders to work together “to establish compassionate immigration reform legislation” and we highlighted this important consideration: “Preserve family unity as a cornerstone of our national immigration system.” This week we have witnessed what happens when families are torn apart by a “zero tolerance” policy that is fundamentally immoral. As Pope Francis said on Wednesday, “A person’s dignity does not depend on them being a citizen, a migrant or a refugee. Saving the life of someone fleeing war and poverty is an act of humanity.”

While some may view this as a political or partisan issue, as Pope Francis said in an interview recently, this issue of immigration strikes at the heart of the gospel and the response of this administration is “contrary to Catholic values.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions might quote Scripture to defend this immoral policy which demands that “every person who crosses the border illegally to be prosecuted and detained,” but it has resulted in more than 2000 children being detained and separated from their parents. As Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement on June 13 condemning the separation of families on the border, “Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together. While protecting borders is important, we can and must do better as a government and as a society to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and it is immoral.”

As Missionaries of the Precious Blood, we affirm our commitment to continue to work to reform an immigration system that is broken and causing many children to be scarred on the sharp shards of “zero tolerance.” We implore our government to replace its “zero tolerance” policy with a policy of “compassionate presence” for those seeking asylum from the violence in their homelands. How can we not open our arms, our hearts and our homes to those in need of food, water, shelter, and legal assistance? To help in a small way those caught in this maze of madness and intolerance, the Kansas City Province will send $15,000 to Catholic Charities of Rio Grande Valley to help care for the children separated from their parents; and $5,000 to Fr. Jim Betzen to help those in the parish where he serves who have been torn from their families and incarcerated by ICE as they await trial and possible deportation.

The soul of our nation is at stake. When we treat refugees with contempt rather than compassion, our souls are at risk. May we reclaim the very best in ourselves and in our nation as we seek to recognize the image of God and the person of Christ in every human being and treat them with reverence, respect, and the dignity they deserve as a child of God.

With peace in the blood of Christ,

Joseph F. Nassal, C.PP.S., Provincial Director
Richard Bayuk, C.PP.S.
Thomas Welk, C.PP.S.
Ronald Will, C.PP.S.
Mark Miller, C.PP.S.

2018-06-23T09:19:35+00:00June 23rd, 2018|Weekly Wine Press|