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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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Catholic groups oppose Trump actions on border wall, sanctuary communities -updated

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WASHINGTON — Catholic organizations expressed distress and unease with President Donald J. Trump’s actions related to immigration while pledging to continue serving and supporting migrant people.

The reactions came within hours of Trump’s signing of executive memorandums on national security Jan. 25 during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security. The memorandums authorized the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and directed John F. Kelly, secretary of homeland security, to look at how federal funding streams can be cut for cities and states that illegally harbor those in the country without legal permission. Read more »

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Appeals court rejects EWTN, other Catholic groups objection to religious mandate

February 22nd, 2016 Posted in National News Tags: , , ,

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ATLANTA — The head of the Eternal Word Television Network said Feb. 18 that a federal appeals court ruling handed down earlier that day in effect orders the Catholic global network “to violate its religious beliefs and comply” with the federal contraceptive mandate or “pay massive fines to the IRS.”

“We are extremely disappointed that the court has refused to protect our religious freedom,” Michael P. Warsaw, EWTN chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

In a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upheld the Health and Human Services mandate that is part of the federal health care law.

In one decision, the panel ruled on two cases. One was filed by EWTN, based in Irondale, Alabama, and the other was filed by Catholic entities in Georgia — the Atlanta archdiocese, Catholic Education of North Georgia Inc. and the Savannah diocese.

The majority opinion rejected the Catholic organizations’ argument that complying with a requirement it opposes on moral grounds violates its freedom of religion. The decision also dismissed the groups’ position that they would be unduly burdened by the Obama administration’s “work-around” whereby they could notify HHS in writing of their religious objections and a third-party administrator would be told by the government to provide the objectionable coverage at no charge to employees.

However, the ruling also said the HHS mandate should not be enforced until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the issue. The high court will hear oral arguments March 23 in Zubik v. Burwell. The case groups together several plaintiffs, including the Little Sisters of the Poor. A ruling from the court is not likely until late spring.

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, most employers, including religious ones, are required to cover employees’ artificial birth control, sterilization and abortifacients, even if employers are morally opposed to such coverage. Only religious employers who fit narrowly drawn criteria are exempt.

Catholic and other employers who are not exempt also argue that by complying with the “work-around” they are still involved in coverage they oppose.

Writing for the majority, Judge Jill Pryor of the 11th Circuit said that Congress included the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act “to improve women’s health and public health generally.”

“There is no evidence whatsoever that the mandate was enacted in an attempt to restrict religious exercise,” she said.

Judge Gerald Tjoflat, in a strongly worded dissent, said the two-judge majority was running “roughshod over the sincerely held religious objections” of the plaintiffs.

“At bottom, the majority’s reasoning takes aim at the heart of RFRA itself,” he said. Tjoflat was referring the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which says that the government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless that burden is the least restrictive means to further a compelling governmental interest.

 

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Catholic groups react to revised HHS mandate on birth control

February 17th, 2012 Posted in National News Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — A former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican and the president of The Catholic University of America were among 300 signers of a letter who called President Barack Obama’s revision to a federal contraceptive mandate “unacceptable” and said it remains a “grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand.”

On Feb. 10, Obama said religious employers could decline to cover contraceptives if they were morally opposed to them, but the health insurers that provide their health plans would be required to offer contraceptives free of charge to women who requested such coverage.

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