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Immigrants must not be demonized, says Miami Archbishop Wenski

November 29th, 2017 Posted in National News Tags:

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WASHINGTON (CNS) — Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski said laws need to be changed to fix the country’s broken immigration system, but in the process, immigrants should not be demonized.

“Fixing illegal immigration does not require the demonization of the so-called ‘illegals,'” said Archbishop Wenski, addressing an audience at a Nov. 28 event in Miami sponsored by the Immigration Partnership and Coalition Fund.

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Filipino priests encouraged to ‘be unafraid,’ support fellow immigrants

November 27th, 2017 Posted in National News Tags: , , ,

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HOUSTON — Part reunion, part crash course in Catholic teaching and navigating the current political climate both in the U.S. and back home in the Philippines, and part celebration of all things Texas, a national assembly for Filipino priests brought faith and culture full circle in Houston.

Hosted by a local organizing committee, the National Assembly of Filipino Priests is held every three years by the National Association of Filipino Priests of the U.S. and Canada.

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Vatican official hopes Trump will change his climate and immigration policies

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VATICAN CITY — The Vatican hopes that U.S. bishops and others will continue to raise their voices in defense of the obligation to fight climate change and, in time, can persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to change his position, a top Vatican official said.

Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, is seen in this 2011 file photo. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, is seen in this 2011 file photo. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, told a group of reporters March 30 that there is concern at the Vatican over Trump’s policies, including on the environment.

Trump’s position on immigration and his efforts to roll back U.S. commitments on environmental regulations are “a challenge for us,” said the cardinal, whose office works on both questions and is charged with assisting bishops around the world as they promote Catholic social teaching.

Still, he said, “we are full of hope that things can change.”

The first sign of hope, he said, is the growing number of “dissenting voices,” who are calling attention to the scientific facts surrounding climate change and the ethical obligation to act to protect the environment for current and future generations.

“This, for us, is a sign that little by little, other positions and political voices will emerge, and so we hope that Trump himself will reconsider some of his decisions,” the cardinal said.

“Various American bishops have already spoken about the president’s position, and this could have an influence,” he said. Perhaps, Trump will come to see that not all the promises he made in the campaign would be good for the country, he added.

A change in position is not impossible, Cardinal Turkson said. “There is another superpower, China, that is rethinking its position” and has allocated funds for programs to reduce dangerous emissions. “One hopes it is not only because it is a country with ever more smog and pollution.”

The cardinal’s remarks came a day after the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development said Trump’s executive order calling for a review of the Clean Power Plan jeopardizes environmental protections and moves the country away from a national carbon standard to help meet domestic and international goals to ease greenhouse gas emissions.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the committee, said in a statement March 29 the order fails to offer a “sufficient plan for ensuring proper care for people and creation.”

Bishop Dewane suggested that an integral approach involving various components of U.S. society can reduce power plant emissions and still encourage economic growth and protect the environment.

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U.S. senators discuss trafficking, immigration with Vatican officials

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Catholic News Service

ROME — U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met Feb. 23 with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, to discuss U.S.-Vatican cooperation in fighting human trafficking and ending modern slavery.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, speaks to reporters Feb. 24 about his meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state. Corker, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met the press at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See. (CNS photo courtesy of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See)

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, speaks to reporters Feb. 24 about his meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state. Corker, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met the press at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See. (CNS photo courtesy of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See)

Corker told reporters Feb. 24 that while modern slavery was the focus of his visit, with so much international attention on President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration, “certainly it came up. It was not stressed. We understand the pope has spoken very strongly about this issue.”

The senator said the United States and the Vatican have a “mutual interest in dealing with modern slavery,” a phenomenon involving some 27 million people; 24 percent of them, he said, are involved in forced prostitution, while the remaining 76 percent are subjected to “hard labor.”

Pope Francis repeatedly has highlighted the connection between restrictive immigration policies and the growth of human trafficking.

“Obviously, the migrant issue and the crisis it has generated there makes people even more vulnerable,” Corker said.

The senator said he believed Trump’s executive orders on immigration were just the first step in a more comprehensive reform of U.S. immigration policy.

While the revised orders have not yet been published, Corker said he believes the restrictions on immigration from Syria and other predominantly Muslim countries where terrorism has been an issue would be a “temporary situation while they look at the vetting processes.”

“My hope is that what this is going to lead to is an immigration policy where we deal with the whole issue,” he said. “We’re beginning on the security front,” which responds to the concerns of many Americans.

Corker said he did not meet Cardinal Parolin has an emissary of the White House, but he does hope Trump will meet Pope Francis in May when the president is scheduled to be in Italy for a summit of the G-7 countries.

“Healthy relationships between our administration and the pope and the Vatican” are important for the people of the United States, he said. “As an American and as someone who sees the importance of this relationship, whether it’s in May or some other near-term point, I hope it occurs.”

Corker was not the only member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to visit the Vatican in late February.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, attended Pope Francis’ general audience Feb. 22 and spoke with the pope afterward about “the global refugee and migrant crisis,” his office said in a statement.

“As the pope stated so clearly yesterday (Feb. 21), it is a moral imperative to protect and defend the inalienable rights of refugees and respect their dignity, especially by adopting just laws that protect those fleeing dangerous or inhumane situations,” Kaine said.

The senator’s office said he also met with Archbishop Paul Gallagher, who is the Vatican foreign minister, participated in a discussion focused on Latin American issues with Vatican officials and met with the Jesuit Refugee Service to discuss its work with refugees and asylum seekers.

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Bishops still have hope Congress will pass immigration reform

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Despite the apprehension over policies that could be enacted by a Republican-led Congress acting in accord with a Republican president in Donald Trump, the U.S. Catholic bishops remain hopeful that Congress will pass an immigration reform bill.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent frisks a man Jan. 11 near the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Jacumba, Calif. Despite the apprehension over policies that could be enacted by a Republican-led Congress acting in accord with a Republican president in Donald Trump, the U.S. Catholic bishops remain hopeful that an immigration reform bill will pass. (CNS photo/Mike Blake, Reuters)

A U.S. Border Patrol agent frisks a man Jan. 11 near the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Jacumba, Calif. Despite the apprehension over policies that could be enacted by a Republican-led Congress acting in accord with a Republican president in Donald Trump, the U.S. Catholic bishops remain hopeful that an immigration reform bill will pass. (CNS photo/Mike Blake, Reuters)

“This is a new moment with a new Congress, a new administration. We should up our expectations and move very carefully on comprehensive immigration reform,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, of Galveston-Houston, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“I think this might be a very good time, a better time, to pursue our goals,” Cardinal DiNardo said during a Jan. 12 conference call promoting National Migration Week, Jan. 8-14.

“I think the (bishops’) conference is trying to start a conversation with the transition team of the president-elect,” said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB vice president. “We continue to help elected officials … to understand the issue,” he added. “I think we are trying to establish that communication.”

“We are very much concerned about keeping families together. It’s Important to respect the security of this nation … but never to lose that human face to this reality,” added Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Migration.

“People are suffering. People want to be welcome. People want to be a part of this great American society,” Bishop Vasquez said. “We need to bring about some change,” he added. “We hope the president will work with us and with Congress as well to pass some laws that will be humane and respectful.”

“In the days and weeks ahead, there will be intense debate over immigration reform and refugee policy. Ultimately, the question is this: Will our nation treat all migrants and refugees, regardless of their national origin or religion, in a way that respects their inherent dignity as children of God?” Cardinal DiNardo said.

“Pope Francis reminds us we are all equal before God. In equal measure, we are in need of and can receive God’s great mercy. This is what makes us sisters and brothers, regardless of how we chose to divide ourselves.”

The morning of the conference call, Archbishop Gomez presented a video message from Pope Francis on immigration during a Mass at the Dolores Mission Church in Boyle Heights, California, near Los Angeles. The clip was part of the pope’s interview with a U.S. television journalist.

Bishop Vasquez dismissed the notion that nationwide immigration reform is virtually impossible.

“I don’t know whether indeed working with the local level is sufficient. I think we as a church have to work with our local communities, with our local diocese and our state Catholic conferences,” he said. “But it’s important that we engage the current administration, to make known what is taking place in our countries. We have to work at the local level, but yes, we also have to work at the national level.”

“There are many in Congress who think that immigration reform is a definite possibility,” said Ashley Feasley, policy director for the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services. “We need to show the need for the reform of our broken system.”

Shortly after Trump’s election, Archbishop Gomez had preached about children in his diocese going to bed afraid. Bishops, he said during the conference call, “can be present to the people and give that sense of peace that we are together. There is a democratic process in our country, and this happens every four years. … We can address those situations and accomplish that in the specific area of immigration reform.”

He added that in his archdiocese, people are “more open to see the future with more peace and understanding.”

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Detainee families find comfort, support at Georgia hospitality center

May 4th, 2016 Posted in Featured, National News Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

 

LUMPKIN, Ga. (CNS) — Inside this cozy yellow bungalow, the kitchen smells of fried chorizo, onions and peppers, and scrambled eggs. A fresh pot of coffee is ready by 7 a.m. as guests awaken in the three bedrooms.

A mile from the barbed wire surrounding Stewart Detention Center in rural southwest Georgia sits this house of hospitality with its small front porch and warm surroundings. Family members who drive hundreds of miles to spend an hour visiting detainees at the center can find comfort and rest here, a place known as El Refugio (“the shelter”). Read more »

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Advocates for migrants in Arizona, Sonora gather at border for ‘posada’

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Catholic News Service

 

NOGALES, Mexico (CNS) — Kenia Salas, about to play the role of Mary in a Christmastime commemoration popular across Mexico, said she imagines Mary as a woman of strength.

“I think she was worried about her baby,” Salas, 17, said before participating in the “posada” along the U.S.-Mexico border. “I think she probably was a little scared because she was about to give birth and she was in pain. But I also think she was happy. She knew what she was doing was for God, and that made her strong.” Read more »

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European practice on migrants is contradictory, Vatican official says

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Catholic News Service

GENEVA (CNS) — Europe is practicing a policy of contradictions in addressing an influx of migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East, said the archbishop who heads the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the U.N. in Geneva.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi called on European leaders to consider a more farsighted approach to the growing challenge migrants pose to the continent. Read more »

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Bishops call for dismantling U.S. immigrant detention system — ‘Goes against values of our nation’

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — A scathing new report on the conditions under which immigrants are detained concludes with the U.S. bishops’ recommendation that the current system be dismantled and replaced with less drastic approaches for keeping track of people whose immigration cases are pending.

Religious leaders, including Catholic and Lutheran bishops, met outside St. Joseph Church in Pearsall, Texas, March 27. After visit to a nearby detention facility, After visit to a nearby detention facility, the group called on U.S. government to halt the practice of family detention and to adopt humane alternatives. (CNS photo/Jordan McMorrough, Today's Catholic)

Religious leaders, including Catholic and Lutheran bishops, met outside St. Joseph Church in Pearsall, Texas, March 27. After visit to a nearby detention facility, After visit to a nearby detention facility, the group called on U.S. government to halt the practice of family detention and to adopt humane alternatives. (CNS photo/Jordan McMorrough, Today’s Catholic)

Drawing on international law, analyses of who is detained, how the mostly for-profit prison industry manages detention and bishops’ personal experiences with people in detention, the report called instead for more supervised release, better case management and community support programs to ensure that people show up for court appearances or deportation orders.

The report released May 11, “Unlocking Human Dignity: A Plan to Transform the U.S. Immigrant Detention System,” was a joint project of the Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Center for Migration Studies, a Catholic migration policy think tank.

In a teleconference about the report that same day, two bishops said they expect Pope Francis will address the topic when he visits the United States in September. Among the events on the pope’s agenda are speeches to a joint meeting of Congress and the United Nations.

“The pope will certainly address this issue,” said Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo of Seattle, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration. The pope has spoken several times about immigrants who are drowning as they try to cross the Mediterranean to reach Italy and Greece, he noted. The pope is also concerned about the situations people are forced to live in after they flee famine or war in their own countries, he said.

“I’d be surprised if Holy Father did not address this. It is close to his heart,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York, a member of the migration committee and chairman of the Center for Migration Studies.

The bishops said the report outlines unacceptable detention practices, especially for mothers and children.

Bishop Elizondo said the use of detention for entire families must end and that the detention system “goes against the values of our nation.”

Bishop DiMarzio said the vast expansion of immigrant detention centers, up to 250 nationwide, which cost $1.7 billion to maintain, amounts to corporations making money out of “the misery of other human beings.”

“No one should be locked up,” he said. “There are more effective and cheaper ways to ensure court appearances.”

Don Kerwin, executive director of the Center for Migration Studies, said the report’s main findings include replacing the detention centers with different types of supervision — such as ankle bracelet monitoring and other systems for checking in — and putting immigrants in the least restrictive settings.

While efforts in the Obama administration to reform the immigrant detention system have had some success, Kerwin said, it’s not enough and the number of people in detention has continued to rise.

The report described the current backlog of immigration cases in the federal court system, typically 18 months, and the conditions under which tens of thousands of people are being held. Meanwhile, the immigration court system is severely underfunded, which means immigrant detainees, most of whom do not have criminal records and are charged only with civil violations of immigration law, spend that time in prisonlike conditions, the report noted.

Among the report’s findings and recommendations:

  • Immigrants awaiting adjudication of their cases, ranging from applications for asylum to charges of being in the country illegally, are held in more restrictive prisonlike situations, with less recourse to judicial review, than some people who have been convicted of crimes. “No other U.S. legal system permits a deprivation of liberty without review and oversight by an independent judiciary,” it said.
  • Detention has been proven to not be an effective deterrent to illegal immigration and “the vast majority of families would appear for removal proceedings with appropriate orientation, supervision and community support.”
  • Congress should repeal its mandatory detention requirements for all but “the most egregious criminal and national security cases. U.S. mandatory detention laws cover lawful permanent residents, asylum-seekers, petty offenders, and persons with U.S. families and other enduring ties to the United States.” This prevents the release of people who have family ties, jobs and housing which tie them to the community.
  • The report said people charged with immigration-related crimes have the highest rate of being jailed pre-trial of all criminal defendants, including those accused of violent crimes and weapons charges.
  • “Private corporations should have more limited, regulated and modest role in a shrinking detention system.”

The report noted that the companies running immigrant detention centers under contract with the government reported revenues in the billions of dollars in 2014. Those companies have strong lobbying efforts including those encouraging “draconian immigration enforcement laws (like Arizona’s S.B. 1070) that have been opposed by the Obama administration and for funding for services that government agencies do not need or want.”

Carol Zimmermann contributed to this report.

 

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Bishops lobby members of Congress on immigration after Mission for Migrants Mass

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — As a half-dozen bishops celebrated Mass at a church on Capitol Hill before beginning a day of lobbying members of Congress on immigration reform, the event itself gave a sense of the many layers of effort they were undertaking.

Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski speaks during a news conference May 29 after celebrating the “Mission for Migrants” Mass at St. Peter’s Catholic Church on Capitol Hill in Washington. Also pictured are Kevin Appleby, director of migration and public affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., and retired Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, N.M. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Songs were led by a multicultural choir in a half-dozen languages. The preaching was in English. The congregation consisted largely of people who work for organizations involved in advocacy for immigration reform and included three high-level White House staff members. And the majority of reporters at a news conference afterward were from religious or Spanish-language media.

The bishops were scheduled to meet with House members from their home districts, among others, and to conclude their day with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Boehner has said he would not bring an immigration reform bill passed a year ago by the Senate onto the House floor unless it had the support of a majority of Republicans. Advocates believe there are enough Republican supporters of the bill for it to pass, along with the votes of nearly all House Democrats, although there is not the majority Boehner seeks within the Republican caucus on its own.

In his homily, Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski compared the current immigration law to the British taxation that led patriots to toss tea into Boston Harbor; to the civil disobedience of Rosa Parks, who broke the law that required her to give up her bus seat to a white man; and to Jesus’ response to those who accused him of breaking Jewish law by healing people on the Sabbath. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” Jesus said, according to the Gospel of Mark.

“When laws fail to advance the common good, they can and should be changed,” Archbishop Wenski said.

“Outdated laws, ill adapted to the increasing interdependence of our world and the globalization of labor, are bad laws,” he said. But, he warned, substitutes for bad laws are no improvement if they fail to take into account both human dignity and national interest.

Archbishop Wenski further compared the immigration situation to that in Victor Hugo’s 19th-century novel “Les Miserables,” which tells, the archbishop said, “how pride and neglect of mercy represented in the bitterly zealous legalism of Inspector Javert ultimately destroys him. Today, modern-day Javerts, on radio and TV talk shows, fan flames of resentment against supposed law breakers, equating them with terrorists intent on hurting us.”

He continued: “However, these people only ask for the opportunity to become legal and have a chance for citizenship, to come out of the shadows where they live in fear of a knock on their door in the dead of night or an immigration raid to their work place.”

The Mass at St. Peter Catholic Church, a couple of blocks away from the Capitol, was concelebrated by six bishops and another half-dozen priests. Most of the bishops had participated in a Mass at the Mexican border in April, held in support of immigration reform, in memory of migrants who have died, and in solidarity with families torn apart by deportations and immigration policies.

At a news conference after the Mass, Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, talked about the kind of lesson the bishops learned from their visit to the border and what they would communicate to the members of Congress they were to meet.

In addition to the Mass at the border fence in Nogales, in Bishop Kicanas’ diocese, while they were in Arizona the bishops walked through the desert along a route used by migrants. They also met with the Border Patrol, served dinner at a soup kitchen for people who’ve been deported, met with deported women in a shelter in Mexico and toured the office of the Pima County medical examiner who tries to identify bodies found in the desert.

“When someone meets a migrant and hears his story, listens to his struggles, it has a powerful effect on changing one’s thinking,” Bishop Kicanas said.

Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo of Seattle, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, said he had just returned from meeting with bishops of Latin America, many of whom expressed their concern for the treatment of their countrymen as they try to better their lives by getting to the United States, and for the families broken apart when someone is deported.

At St. Peter Church, one question put to the bishops was “is it immoral to disagree with you?” The reporter suggested a different position on immigration reform was “a matter of prudential judgment.”

The morality of the bishops’ approach to immigration comes from the Gospel, Archbishop Wenski said. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” he quoted Jesus saying. “The prudential part comes in how we act on that.”

Bishop Kicanas said the approach taken with people who disagree is key. “It’s important not to demagogue people who are fearful or angry” about immigrants. “It’s important to be with them, and to help them see the Gospel message.”

Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M., who also was at the border Mass, told Catholic News Service after the news conference that the experience at the border added a sense of urgency to addressing immigration reform.

In his diocese, he said Catholic Charities deals all the time with families who are divided by someone’s deportation. But the walk the bishops took through the desert “was very powerful” in illustrating what risks people are willing to take to escape poverty and violence in their home countries.

“People are not coming because it’s going to be easy,” he said. Especially with the increased border security of the last decade, it’s almost impossible to cross the border illegally on one’s own, Bishop Cantu said, and the human smuggling industry is now controlled by the drug cartels. “It really puts lives in danger.”

A related video has been posted at http://youtu.be/rQZ0h1WC24c.

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