WASHINGTON — By barring people who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border from receiving U.S. asylum unless they request it at an official U.S. port of entry, President Donald Trump is directly contradicting existing U.S. law on the matter, Catholic leaders said Nov. 14.
“While our teaching acknowledges the right of each nation to regulate its borders, we find this action deeply concerning,” the leaders said in a joint statement.
Reiterating that it is not a crime to seek asylum, they urged the administration to seek other solutions to improve the U.S. immigration system.
The statement was signed by Bishop Joe S. Vasquez, of Austin, Texas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration; Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA; Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of Catholic Legal Immigration Network; and Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services.
A presidential order signed by Trump Nov. 9 said that people entering the country without documents over the next 90 days will not be eligible for asylum unless they present themselves formally at official ports of entry.
This policy “will restrict and slow access to protection for hundreds of children and families fleeing violence in Central America, potentially leaving them in unsafe conditions in Mexico or in indefinite detention situations at the U.S./Mexico border,” the Catholic leaders said.
“We reiterate that it is not a crime to seek asylum and this right to seek refuge is codified in our laws and in our values,” they continued. “We urge the administration to seek other solutions that will strengthen the integrity of the existing immigration system, while assuring access to protection for vulnerable children and families.”
They added: “The Catholic Church will continue to serve, accompany and assist all those who flee persecution, regardless of where they seek such protection and where they are from.”
Trump issued the order on asylum ahead of the arrival of caravan of thousands of people from Central America who have traveled north for weeks to seek asylum in the United States. About 350 Central Americans split off the large group and arrived Nov. 13 in Tijuana, Mexico. The majority of those in the caravan were expected to be heading to the Texas border area.