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Bishops decry ‘abhorrent acts of hatred,’ racism, white supremacy in Charlottesville, Va.

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — In the aftermath of a chaos- and hate-filled weekend in Virginia, Catholic bishops and groups throughout the nation called for peace after three people died and several were injured following clashes between pacifists, protesters and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 11 and 12.

White nationalists are met by counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 12 during a demonstration over a plan to remove the statue of a Confederate general from a city park. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, condemned the violence and hatred and offered prayers for the family and loved ones of the person who was killed, and for all those who were injured. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

A 32-year-old paralegal Heather D. Heyer was killed when a car plowed into a group in Charlottesville on Saturday. Various news outlets have identified the driver as James Alex Fields, who allegedly told his mother he was attending a rally for President Donald Trump. Reports say the car allegedly driven by Fields plowed into a crowd during a white nationalist rally and a counter-rally on Aug. 12 in the afternoon.

The bishop from the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Virginia was one of the first to call for peace following the violence in Charlottesville late on Aug. 11, which led to the events the following day.

On the evening of Aug. 11, The Associated Press and other news outlets reported a rally of hundreds of men and women, identified as white nationalists, carrying lit torches on the campus of the University of Virginia. Counter-protesters also were present during the rally and clashes were reported. The following day, at least 20 were injured and the mayor of Charlottesville confirmed Heyer’s death later that afternoon via Twitter after the car allegedly driven by Fields rammed into the crowd of marchers. Two Virginia State Police troopers also died when a helicopter they were in crashed while trying to help with the violent events on the ground.

“In the last 24 hours, hatred and violence have been on display in the city of Charlottesville,” said Richmond Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo in a statement on the afternoon of Aug. 12. “I earnestly pray for peace.”

Charlottesville is in Bishop DiLorenzo’s diocese.

Virginia’s governor declared a state of emergency Aug. 12 when violence erupted during the “Unite the Right” white nationalist protest against the removal of a statue of a Confederate general. But the trouble already had started the night before with the lit torches and chants of anti-Semitic slogans on the grounds of the University of Virginia.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the events “abhorrent acts of hatred,” in an Aug. 12 statement. He said they were an “attack on the unity of our nation.”

Other groups, including many faith groups, seeking to counter the white nationalist events showed up during both events. Authorities reported clashes at both instances.

“Only the light of Christ can quench the torches of hatred and violence. Let us pray for peace,” said Bishop DiLorenzo in his statement. “I pray that those men and women on both sides can talk and seek solutions to their differences respectfully.”

On Twitter, Jesuit Father James Martin denounced racism as a sin and said: “All Christians, all people of faith, should not only reject it, not only oppose it, but fight against it.”

Other bishops quickly followed denouncing the violence.

“May this shocking incident and display of evil ignite a commitment among all people to end the racism, violence, bigotry and hatred that we have seen too often in our nation and throughout the world,” said Bishop Martin D. Holley, of the Diocese of Memphis, Tennessee in an Aug. 13 statement. “Let us pray for the repose of the souls of those who died tragically, including the officers, and for physical and emotional healing for all who were injured. May ours become a nation of peace, harmony and justice for one and all.”

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia said racism was the “poison of the soul,” and said in a statement that it was the United States’ “original sin” and one that “never fully healed.”

He added that, “blending it with the Nazi salute, the relic of a regime that murdered millions, compounds the obscenity.”

On Aug. 13, Cardinal DiNardo, along with Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, issued a statement saying: “We stand against the evil of racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazism. We stand with our sisters and brothers united in the sacrifice of Jesus, by which love’s victory over every form of evil is assured.”

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Experts say law-abiding migrants at greater deportation risk under Trump

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The stories come in dribs and drabs on the evening news or in timelines via Twitter, but they’re steady.

On Aug. 2, two young popular soccer players, brothers living in Bethesda, Md., were deported to their native El Salvador. In mid-July, Jesus Lara Lopez, a 37-year-old father of four in Cleveland, was deported to Mexico. On Aug. 1, Lourdes Salazar Bautista, a Michigan mom with three U.S. citizen children also was deported to Mexico.

During a late March news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, seven-year-old Walter Escobar of Texas holds a photo of his family, including his father, Jose Escobar, who was deported from the U.S.,Experts say law-abiding migrants are at greater risk of deportation under President Donald Trump. (CNS photo/Michael Reynolds, EPA)

During a late March news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, seven-year-old Walter Escobar of Texas holds a photo of his family, including his father, Jose Escobar, who was deported from the U.S.,Experts say law-abiding migrants are at greater risk of deportation under President Donald Trump. (CNS photo/Michael Reynolds, EPA)

At some point, they all had contact with immigration authorities, but none had criminal records or a violent past, and regularly checked in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, to inform the agency of their whereabouts.

During President Barack Obama’s administration, migrants like them, in the country without documentation, were not priorities for deportation, said John Sandweg, former acting director of ICE. They had been granted stays or were under supervision by immigration officials likely for humanitarian reasons; they were taking care of family or had extenuating circumstances.

“Individuals in this group had mostly been checking in with us … very rarely are these individuals convicted criminals,” said Sandweg during a July panel titled “Immigration Policy and Practice Under the Trump Administration: Understanding What’s New, What’s Not and Why It Matters,” sponsored by the Washington-based immigration reform group America’s Voice.

Under President Donald Trump, however, the fate of these migrants has changed, said Sandweg.

“What we’ve seen is lots of those individuals getting picked up, and the reason those individuals get picked up is they are the lowest hanging fruit,” said Sandweg. “They are the individuals who ICE can arrest most quickly and deport within a matter of two, three weeks. They’re also the most sensitive cases and the cases least likely to pose a public safety threat.”

But it’s part of a strategy, Sandweg believes, by the Trump administration to increase the total number of deportations to record levels — a task that will be difficult to match since Obama was given the moniker “deporter-in-chief” because of the record-breaking 2.5 million deportations that took place under his administration.

“It’s very clear to me that their mission is to transcend the number of deportations. How do you do that? You don’t focus on criminals,” said Sandweg. “Criminals are slow to remove. Criminals who are at-large are very difficult to find and it’s very time-consuming. It’s time-consuming, difficult work.”

Some migrants and their supporters already are sensing the shift in focus.

In early August, when Maria De Loera was called to a deportation hearing in Texas, Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso attended the meeting in her place so she could stay at the bedside of her cancer-stricken 8-year-old daughter at the hospital. De Loera left Mexico in 2014 after her husband was assassinated and fled to the U.S. looking for asylum, which was later denied. 

Some supporters had feared De Loera would immediately be deported if she showed up to the meeting with immigration officials, meaning her daughter would be left to attend cancer treatments alone at the hospital.

After Bishop Seitz met with immigration officials, De Loera was granted a six-month stay so she could continue to care for her daughter. These days, it seems as if “the most obvious humanitarian reasons for allowing a person to stay are no longer sufficient,” said the bishop, while also expressing worry about the people who seem to be the new focus of deportations.

“The church certainly is going to be very concerned about action leading to prioritization of people who are really not any threat and who have not committed any crime, and who are productive members of our community,” Bishop Seitz said in an Aug. 7 interview with Catholic News Service.

The emphasis, he said, should be on criminals “who are really a threat to our citizens,” not spending time and energy going after people who are law-abiding.

David Leopold, partner and chair of the Immigration Practice Group and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the Trump administration would like others to believe “we’re focusing on criminals. That’s our priority.”

But the focus is on “non-criminals, folks who have worked hard, have done everything they were supposed to do, played by the rules, have been here for a long time,” said Leopold, who also was part of the America’s Voice panel. “They’re the easiest to arrest because they comply. They’re going after those cases.”

While there may not be much talk about raids taking place, they’re happening but in the lobbies of immigration offices, he said.

“I call them silent raids because where they’re occurring is at these check-ins,” said Leopold.

While fathers and mothers and children wait for their ICE removal officers, meetings that never yielded unusual developments now turn into meetings in which many have ankle bracelets placed on them, and given a date to leave, he said.

In a July 31 essay for America, a national Catholic magazine run by the Jesuits, Kevin Appleby, senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies of New York, said that under the Trump administration, Catholics must shift their focus toward opposing mass deportations because it’s clear that under this presidency, steps have been taken “to implement a major deportation campaign targeted at all undocumented immigrants, including the population the U.S. bishops have sought for years to make citizens.”

For fiscal year 2018, the administration has asked for 1,000 more ICE agents, 500 more Border Patrol agents, plus more than 10,000 more detention beds, not to mention $1.6 billion for a border wall, wrote Appleby.

“It is clear where this administration is headed on immigration,” he wrote. “The goal is not to legalize 11 million undocumented persons but to get rid of them.”

While some bishops have been on the front lines during critical moments involving the deportation of noncriminal migrants who have been long-term residents and contributing members of certain communities, Appleby urged the participation of all bishops, so as to have a plan for what to do when deportations take place in their respective dioceses and to lead other Catholics to support vulnerable immigrant families.

“We are entering a dangerous time in the history of our immigrant nation,” Appleby wrote. “The stakes for our immigrant brothers and sisters, and their children, are high. History will judge whether Catholics stood up and protected their neighbors during this dark period.”

Parishes are a great place to talk about those issues, to listen to “unheard narratives,” said Bishop Seitz, while acknowledging that sometimes it feels as if people are listening to two different Gospels in church pews: one that says we have limited resources and we have to protect ourselves from outsiders, and one that says we’re called to love others. But a person cannot call him or herself Catholic without expressing the compassion of Jesus, he said.

When a person loves others and gives of oneself for others “God will care for us even though there may be sacrifices involved,” said Bishop Seitz, adding that if we give what’s good and charitable, God will care for us.

“I don’t think those elements are to be found in the dumbed-down Gospel that’s out and about today,” he said.

 

Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

 

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Catholic groups ask Congress to reject ‘discriminatory’ RAISE Act

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Calling a proposed piece of legislation “discriminatory,” the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration called on the president and Congress to reject a bill that seeks to drastically cut legal immigration levels in half over a decade and which also would greatly limit the ability of citizens and legal residents to bring family into the U.S.

U.S. President Donald Trump makes an announcement on the introduction in the Senate of the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act, or RAISE, with Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and David Perdue, R-Ga., at the White House Aug. 2. (CNS photo/Zach Gibson, pool via EPA)

U.S. President Donald Trump makes an announcement on the introduction in the Senate of the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act, or RAISE, with Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and David Perdue, R-Ga., at the White House Aug. 2. (CNS photo/Zach Gibson, pool via EPA)

Other Catholic groups also called for an end to the legislation.

“Had this discriminatory legislation been in place generations ago, many of the very people who built and defended this nation would have been excluded,” said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chair of the bishops’ migration committee.

In a news release late Aug. 2, he criticized the RAISE Act introduced earlier in the day by Republican Sens. Tom Cotton, of Arkansas, and David Perdue, of Georgia.

In addition to cutting legal immigration, the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act, or RAISE Act, would create a system of legal immigration different from the current one that favors family ties. Instead, it would move toward a system under which points would be awarded for a person’s ability to speak English, level of education, age, as well as “high-paying job offers, past achievements, and entrepreneurial initiative,” according to a White House statement praising the proposal.

Other limitations proposed by the RAISE Act would permanently cap the number of refugees allowed safe passage, “thereby denying our country the necessary flexibility to respond to humanitarian crisis,” said Bishop Vasquez.

“As a church, we believe the stronger the bonds of family, the greater a person’s chance of succeeding in life. The RAISE Act imposes a definition of family that would weaken those bonds,” he said.

Kevin Appleby, senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies of New York, said the bill “is a nonstarter from a Catholic perspective, as it weakens the family unit and favors the rich over the poor. It also is part of a larger strategy by the administration to reduce the ethnic diversity of the immigrant population in this nation.”

The proposed bill was largely criticized and caused an uproar shortly after the president’s televised support early Aug. 2, saying it would reduce poverty, increase wages and save taxpayer money, adding that many current legal immigrants are low-skilled and many receive welfare benefits.

Later in the day, senior White House adviser Stephen Miller further added to the controversy over the bill after he seemed dismissive during a news briefing of the Statue of Liberty’s “”The New Colossus” poem and the line “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” and in defending the bill’s ability-to-speak-English requirement.

Even some of the president’s fellow Republicans, including South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who said he has supported “merit-based” immigration, said he would not support the bill.

Bishop Vasquez said the bill would be detrimental to families and negates contributions of past immigrants to the U.S., and he called on Congress and the administration instead “to work together in a bipartisan fashion to enact into law comprehensive immigration reform.”

“I believe that such reform must recognize the many contributions that immigrants of all backgrounds have made to our nation, and must protect the lives and dignity of all, including the most vulnerable,” said Bishop Vasquez.

Christopher G. Kerr, executive director of the Ohio-based Ignatian Solidarity Network, a national social justice education and advocacy organization, said from a faith perspective, it’s hard to back the RAISE Act if you reflect on the words of the pope, who called on Americans during his 2015 apostolic visit “to not turn their backs on their neighbors.”

But the RAISE Act does just that by creating “obstacles to family unity for immigrant families and block access to safety for tens of thousands of refugees,” he said.

“We continue to call for immigration policies that support family unity, provide pathways to citizenship, and promote humane and just treatment of immigrants — the RAISE Act does not respond to this call,” said Kerr.

 

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Bishop calls bill that reduces legal immigration ‘discriminatory’

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Calling a proposed piece of legislation “discriminatory,” the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration called on the president and Congress to reject a bill that seeks to drastically cut legal immigration levels over a decade, and which also would greatly limit the ability of citizens and legal residents to bring family into the U.S. Read more »

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Washington letter: 80 percent of U.S. immigrants with Temporary Protected Status have jobs

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Citing the significant economic contributions of immigrants under a federal program known as Temporary Protected Status, a new study says ending the program, as some in the Trump administration have suggested, would negatively impact the U.S. economy.

A teenage girl from El Salvador is embraced by a family friend before leaving Viva La Case refugee center with her family in Buffalo, N.Y., to file a claim July 5 with customs officials at the U.S.-Canadian border to remain in the United States. (CNS photo/Chris Helgren, Reuters)

A teenage girl from El Salvador is embraced by a family friend before leaving Viva La Case refugee center with her family in Buffalo, N.Y., to file a claim July 5 with customs officials at the U.S.-Canadian border to remain in the United States. (CNS photo/Chris Helgren, Reuters)

That’s because more than 80 percent of the approximately 325,000 immigrants in the country with the status known as TPS have jobs, many have mortgages, pay taxes and work in industries crucial to the economy, such as construction, child care and health care, and collectively have some 273,000 U.S.-born children, says a July report by the Center for Migration Studies in New York.

Kevin Appleby, the center’s senior director of international migration policy, said if extensions for the migrants are not granted or the program is terminated, crucial industries would see a shortage of workers, banks would see defaults in mortgages, and government coffers would lose out on tax revenues and consumer spending.

“Let’s hope the financial industry realizes that,” he said.

Deporting TPS recipient parents also would create thousands of orphans in the country, which would increase foster care costs, place a burden on local and state governments, and alienate the children affected, said Appleby. He was one of three officials from the center who explained the report “Statistical and Demographic Profile of the U.S. Temporary Protected Status Populations From El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti” in a July 20 video conference.

Demographer Robert Warren said TPS recipients have high participation in the U.S. labor force, 81 percent to 88 percent, well above the 63 percent rate for the total U.S. population; almost half of them have mortgages, and 11 percent are self-employed, creating jobs for themselves and others, the study says. They work in construction, food service, child care centers and the health care industry, said Warren, senior visiting fellow at the Center for Migration Studies.

The TPS program has been around for 27 years and provides a work permit and reprieve from deportation to immigrants from some countries recovering from conflicts or natural disasters. Immigrants from war-torn countries such as El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti account for 90 percent of program’s beneficiaries in the U.S.

Donald Kerwin, the center’s executive director, said: “TPS has been a vitally important and successful protection and humanitarian program for 27 years. It’s definitely not a perfect program, but its imperfections have more to do with who it doesn’t cover than who it does.” 

The program also doesn’t provide a path toward a more permanent status for migrants since the Department of Homeland Security has to periodically grant extensions.

A TPS beneficiary from Haiti, for example, who was granted protections following the devastating earthquake in 2010 has to see if the U.S. government will grant extensions to the program to determine whether she or he can legally remain the U.S. The extensions can go on for years and, in the meantime, TPS beneficiaries get jobs, get married, have children, buy homes and become involved in the community.

Though recently a six-month extension was granted to Haitians, Homeland Security on its webpage tells Haitian TPS recipients to use the time before Jan. 22, 2018, to prepare for and arrange departure from the United States. DHS also will look at what to do with TPS beneficiaries from El Salvador and Honduras in early 2018.

Kerwin said many are deeply embedded in the U.S. communities and have long contributed to the country, adding that roughly half of Salvadorans and Honduran TPS recipients have been in the country 20 years or more.

“The concern is that the Trump administration could terminate the TPS designations for these nations, which our paper concludes is the worst option,” Kerwin said. “It’s really not just a lose-lose option. It’s a lose-lose-lose option because, as the report shows, it would be bad for the U.S., for its communities, for families, for the housing market, for certain industries in particular and for the economy overall.”

It also would be detrimental to the migrants’ countries of origin, said Kerwin, because they already have said they can’t safely accommodate returning populations. Some migrants may not leave and even those who do may attempt a return to be with family in the U.S. in the future, he said. Termination of TPS would only create yet another group of residents in the United States without legal permission, Kerwin said.

Immigrant advocate groups are urging more extensions, knowing that under a Trump administration more permanent options, and even legislative options, are simply not a reality.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration has repeatedly advocated for the extensions and, in May, its chairman, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, thanked DHS for the TPS extension for Haitians.

Other groups, such as the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, said even though the extension was a positive development, it was a temporary fix. Countries such as Haiti, whose citizens benefit from the program, need more stability before masses of people are sent back, CLINIC officials said. Some say that destabilizing these countries with the influx of people is only going to result in even more people trying to leave their homelands for the U.S.

“Extension of TPS is not the perfect option but it looks to be the best available option at this point,” said Kerwin, adding that legislative options would be more difficult to bring to fruition.

Many advocates worry that the worst possible option, ending the program altogether, is under consideration by the Trump administration.

DHS Secretary John Kelly “has already indicated a posture of the administration not to extend TPS to these countries. … It’s becoming clear that the administration wants to end TPS to these countries and if at all possible … end it altogether,” Appleby said.

“This administration was elected to implement policies that are in the best interest of this nation and it’s clear from our report that extending TPS will be in the best interest of the nation,” said Appleby. “Many within the administration want to end it for ideological reasons, but that is not in the best interest of the country and does not best serve the U.S. citizenry.”

Advocates, including many faith communities, are getting ready battle in defense of the program and of the migrants affected. After all, faith communities were instrumental at the beginning of the TPS program in the late 1980s, early 1990s, said Appleby, recalling that Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York, who was then the head of the bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services, was involved in getting the program to become a reality under the Immigration Act of 1990.

“We anticipate the faith community to be involved in this fight, if not outright leaders of it,” Appleby said.

 

Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

 

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Texas bishops object to call to end protection of young migrants

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — After a Texas attorney general gave the Trump administration an ultimatum to end a policy protecting young migrants or face a lawsuit in September, the Catholic bishops of Texas expressed disappointment in a letter to the state official and blamed Congress for the uncertain future the migrants are facing.

Immigration advocates rally in New York City Nov. 22, 2016. The U.S. bishops' migration committee chair in a July 18 statement urged President Donald Trump to "ensure permanent protection" for youth under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. (CNS photo/Justin Lane, EPA)

Immigration advocates rally in New York City Nov. 22, 2016. The U.S. bishops’ migration committee chair in a July 18 statement urged President Donald Trump to “ensure permanent protection” for youth under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. (CNS photo/Justin Lane, EPA)

In a letter made public July 20 and addressed to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Texas bishops say they are “disappointed” by his demand that the administration terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a 2012 policy under then-President Barack Obama.

While not providing legal status, it gives youth who were brought to the U.S. as minors and without documentation a temporary reprieve from deportation and employment authorization in the United States as long as they meet certain criteria.

The bishops also blame “Congress’ failure,” for the uncertain future being faced by young DACA recipients, who, “along with countless other migrants who truly believe in the American dream, are victims of a broken system.”

In late June, officials from nine states, mostly attorneys general and one governor, joined Paxton in urging the Trump administration end DACA, threatening the government with a lawsuit Sept. 5 if the program continues.

But President Donald Trump does not seem clear about what he will do. As a candidate, he said he would terminate the policy. As president, he said the decision is difficult and recently said he’s still weighing what to do about it.

Officials from Idaho, Arkansas, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia joined Texas in demanding an end to the program. The State Attorney of California sent Paxton a letter July 21 and, backed by 19 other attorneys general, opposed the request to end DACA.

On June 20, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, along with others, introduced the 2017 version of what in the past has been called the DREAM Act, seeking relief for DACA recipients that could result in their legal status and perhaps citizenship down the line.

“This is the right thing to do and the compassionate thing to do,” said Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez in a July 21 letter.

However, White House officials told the McClatchy news service the day before the bill was introduced that the president would not support the legislation even if Congress passes it.

In Texas, the bishops’ statement says, ending DACA would result in the deportation of 117,000 young people from the United States. Nationally, 750,000 to 800,000 are said to have applied for the status, which asks that applicants not have a criminal record, have served honorably in the armed forces of the United States or be currently in school or have graduated from high school or earned a GED.

“These individuals contribute to the economy, serve honorably in our armed forces, excel in our schools and universities, minister in our churches, and volunteer in our communities. Texans should be proud to claim them as our own,” the Texas’ bishops statement said.

The bishops tell Paxton “to be mindful of migrants’ dignity and our own Texas values.” They also speak of the separation of families that some of the DACA recipients, known as “Dreamers,” experience.

“Under our federal system, migrants’ hopes for a better life are often met by bureaucratic ways of thinking,” the letter says, and remind Paxton that Texans stand “against such thinking because they value both liberty and opportunity.”

 

Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

 

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U.S. bishops call for permanent protection for young migrants

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The chair of the migration committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged the Trump administration to “ensure permanent protection” for youth who were brought to the U.S. as minors without legal documentation. Read more »

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As partial travel ban nears, agencies worry about refugees in limbo

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Agencies and organizations that help refugees start new lives in the U.S. worry about the fate that awaits migrants in transit as well as those who will not be allowed into the country as the partial ban that the U.S. Supreme Court set in motion with its late June ruling goes into effect in early July.

An immigrant holds a U.S. flag during a naturalization ceremony in New York City June 30. (CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters)

An immigrant holds a U.S. flag during a naturalization ceremony in New York City June 30. (CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters)

“The immediate priority is the safety of those refugees who are en route, ensuring they reach their destination,” said Ashley Feasley, policy director for Migration and Refugee Services at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington. “We are also very concerned about the individuals who have assured cases that are scheduled for travel after July 6 who may not be able to arrive now due to the interpretation of the Supreme Court decision and the executive order.”

The Supreme Court announced June 26 it would temporarily allow the Trump administration’s plan to ban of refugees from six majority-Muslim countries, unless those refugees had “bona fide” relationships with parties in the United States, meaning certain family members, employees or universities.

In an executive order that underwent one revision and was blocked by lower courts, the administration has said it needs the time to review the refugee resettlement program and its vetting procedures for allowing refugees into the country, and also said it was necessary to limit the number of the refugees allowed into the U.S. to 50,000 for 2017. That number is expected to be reached July 6 in the evening.

“These people have travel documents, they are ready to go,” said Feasley. “They have relationships with the resettlement offices in the cities they were to be resettled in. It would be heartbreaking and administratively inefficient if they are not able to complete their journey of seeking refuge.”

But heartbreak and uncertainty is exactly what many of them, as well as the resettlement agencies and communities that already have a connection to the refugees may face, say officials from agencies pleading with the administration to involve them in the developments that are about to unfold.

“We urge the administration to issue more clarity on its interpretation of the executive order and the decision and work with the resettlement agencies to ensure as smooth and humane implementation as possible at this time,” said Feasley.

On June 30, representatives from Refugee Council USA, which included some faith groups that resettle refugees, cried out for involvement in the process.

Hans Van de Weerd, chairman of the Washington-based Refugee Council USA, said in a telephone briefing that targeting “vulnerable” populations, such as refugees, was “morally wrong” and it also was bad policy.

Some criticized the high court as well, which said it would review the constitutionality of the executive order in October. During the refugee council briefing, officials from refugee resettlement agencies said the court’s decision to allow a partial ban to be put in place amounts to slamming the door on the face of the vulnerable “for no good reason.” Though the partial ban will keep some refugees out, the court said that those with “bona fide” relationships in the U.S. could still enter, even if the 50,000 cap had been reached.

In a statement, Jesuit Refugee Service USA, said the administration, with its actions, was preventing the reunification of family, particularly the special relationship of grandparents and grandchildren, which along with aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, nephews, cousins and some in-laws, the State Department said does not count as being close enough to qualify as a bona fide familial relationships.

“As a result, many refugees, including the elderly, unaccompanied children, and those in need of medical treatment will be delayed in receiving U.S. protection for at least several additional months,” said the organization in the statement.

Some like Jordan Denari Duffner, of Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative research project that provides information about Islamophobia, said the danger of the ban extends beyond preventing people from entering the country. It’s also caused damage within the U.S. because it’s an extension of what the president promised when, during his campaign, he called for a “Muslim ban,” and promotes views seeking to paint Muslims as dangerous.

“Even if the travel ban seems more watered down today, it’s been the product of an administration that has played off of and promoted Islamophobia,” she said.

 

Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

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Bishops, faith groups worry about consequences of partial travel ban

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration said the country’s Catholic bishops are “deeply concerned” about the consequences of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to allow a partial ban on foreign nationals as it reviews the constitutionality of a wider ban.

“Today’s decision will have human consequences,” said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez, of Austin, Texas, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement that in October it will hear a case involving President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which seeks to delay entry into the country by immigrants, including refugees, from six majority-Muslim countries. It also seeks to suspend, for a time, the entry of all refugees.

A stoplight by the steps to the U.S. Supreme Court reflects the court's decision to allow a partial travel bank on foreign nationals as it reviews a case. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

A stoplight by the steps to the U.S. Supreme Court reflects the court’s decision to allow a partial travel bank on foreign nationals as it reviews a case. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

The court announced June 26 that until its hears the case in the fall and weighs a decision, it would allow part of the ban to be implemented and some “foreign nationals” will be barred from entering the country, but that determination will be made depending on the applicant’s previous relationships with a person or institution in the U.S. The administration says it needs to implement the ban while it reviews the refugee resettlement program and its vetting procedures.

Bishop Vasquez said the bishops are “deeply concerned about the welfare of the many other vulnerable populations who will now not be allowed to arrive and seek protection during the proscribed pause, most notably certain individuals fleeing religious persecution and unaccompanied refugee children.”

He urged the Trump administration to include refugee service providers as well as national security and immigration experts in a timely, transparent and efficient review of the existing refugee resettlement program.

“We believe it is vital to utilize the full expertise of the existing resettlement program when conducting such an important evaluation,” he said in a statement issued late June 26.

The court said the partial ban it has allowed to go forward allows “foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States” to apply for entry, but “all other foreign nationals are subject to the provisions of (the executive order).”

That means a person with family or a nexus with an organization, such as a university or employer, is not affected by the ban.

The court seemed to be taking into consideration the hardships the ban would create for an “American party,” such as a family member, whose relatives are denied entry, or for a university or employer, while also trying to consider the administration’s arguments that it’s necessary to do so in the interest of national security.

Denying entry to immigrants with no connection to the country “does not burden any American party,” the court said. And though the order is seeking to cap the number of refugees allowed into the country at 50,000, the court said that if a person with one of the previously mentioned connections to the U.S. is seeking refuge, “such as a person may not be excluded … even if the 50,000 has been reached or exceeded.”

Groups such as Catholic Relief Services, the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States, expressed disappointment with the ruling.

“This ruling will devastate some of the most vulnerable people in the world, innocent people who are fleeing the exact kind of violence that this executive order seeks to protect against,” said Bill O’Keefe, CRS’ vice president for government relations and advocacy. “The facts tell us that that these refugees already undergo significant vetting – more than anyone who enters the United States — and none has gone on to commit acts of violence.”

It also reinforces the false idea that refugees are dangerous, O’Keefe said.

“We outright reject the idea that refugees are implicitly dangerous,” he said. “At a time of such unprecedented need around the world, we should be doing more to help and resettle those who are in danger and need, not less.”

Christopher G. Kerr, executive director of Ignatian Solidarity Network, a national social justice education and advocacy organization based in Ohio, said the high court’s decision “does not reflect our country’s spirit of compassion and welcome.”

“When we create uncertainty for those seeking safety from conflict and persecution, we compromise their dignity as fellow people of God,” said Kerr. “We continue to stand with those seeking refuge and safety here in the United States.”

The troubled executive order went into litigation almost as soon as it was issued Jan. 27, just a week into the new president’s term. It was revised in March, but those revisions, too, have faced legal challenges.

In a statement after the court’s announcement, Trump said the high court’s decision was a “clear victory” for national security.

“It allows the travel suspension for the six terror-prone countries and the refugee suspension to become largely effective,” he said.

In a partial dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas said he worried that “the court’s remedy will prove unworkable” and that the “compromise will burden executive officials with the task of deciding, on peril of contempt, whether individuals from the six affected nations who wish to enter the United States have a sufficient connection to a person or entity in this country.”

It also may “invite a flood of litigation until this case is finally resolved,” he said.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision came a day before it ended its current term. The new court term begins in October.

Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

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Catholic church leaders call for dialogue between the U.S. and Cuba

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Catholic News Service

 

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The retired Catholic archbishop of Havana called for dialogue between the United States and Cuba, and said it’s the only way in which past and present problems can be solved.

In a June 19 letter published in Palabra Nueva, the magazine for the Archdiocese of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who played a major role in the rapprochement between Cuba and the U.S., said “resorting to old models” and applying them presently to Cuba can “overshadow or delay” the resolution of conflicts between the two countries. Read more »

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