by Gabino Zavala, Justice and Peace Coordinator
“I was a stranger and you welcomed me…” Matthew 25: 35
In his first week in office President Donald Trump has signed two executive orders related to immigration, both themes of his campaign. The first deals with border security, including directives to the Department of Homeland Security to begin the construction of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. This in spite of the fact that the influx of undocumented immigrants into our country is the lowest in 40 years and the construction of this wall would cost billions of dollars. The second executive order deals with efforts within the office, including substantially boosting staffing and loosening the restrictions on who can be apprehended and deported. The orders contain a number of provisions.
The U.S. Bishops spoke out against these two orders. In a statement (full text), USCCB’s migration chair Bishop Joseph Vasquez said the directive involving a wall would “put immigrant lives needlessly in harm’s way” and the other would “tear families apart and spark fear and panic in communities.” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB President, also issued a statement (full text). He said several of the announcements “deeply concern” him, and while he and other faith leaders respect a sovereign nation’s right to control its borders and ensure security, they do not believe that a large scale escalation of immigrant detention and increased use of enforcement in immigrant communities is the way too achieve these goals. (Catholic News Service)
Some reports say more immigration directives appear on the way in the near future including directives on the vetting of potential immigrants and policies related to refugees. This expected executive order would restrict immigration from some countries in the Middle East and some African nations due to religious beliefs. Also expected is a temporary halt to the entry and resettlement based on religion or country of origin.
Stopping refugees for any period of time for any group or people would undermine our nations founding principles as a beacon of freedom and hope. Our refugee resettlement program saves hundreds of lives every day and strengthens our communities and our nation. This executive order has the potential to harm thousands of the most vulnerable and separate families. The refugees already go through a very rigorous and extensive vetting process before being admitted to our resettlement program. The Justice for Immigrants Campaign, led by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a pre-emptive action alert directed at President Trump and your members of Congress.