“The latest developments are consistent with the sort of cardiosclerosis that has begun in our country, and it concerns across-the-board life issues,” said Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, who from the floor of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, raised the idea of a bishop delegation to the border “as a sign of our pastoral concern and protest against this hardening of the American heart.” “And the invitation is to harden our hearts further,” he said.
Catholic bishops met this week in Fort Lauderdale and quickly condemned, as a body, two keys in Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy; (1) AG Jeff Sessions’ decision to severely restrict asylum claims for victims of domestic and gang violence – disqualifying tens of thousands of people – and (2) separating children from their families. “At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life,” said Conference Chair Cardinal Daniel DiNardo. And this: “Pulling young children from their parents can cause “irreparable harm and trauma” and “separating babies from their mothers … is immoral.”
But their concern went beyond statements. They’re considering sending a delegation of bishops to inspect detention facilities including this one in Brownsville Texas, in which 1,500 boys are kept inside a former Walmart 22 hours a day; only 2 hours allowed outside. The same facility that called the police on Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon when he tried to inspect it in May. Same facility that has a big mural of Donald Trump with a quote from his Art of the Deal, helpfully translated into Spanish. You know, for the kids. [It’s complicated, there are other presidents on the wall too].
The bishops are considering punishing Catholics whose jobs require them to enforce Trump’s policies, including disrupting families. Among actions considered were denying the sacrament and excommunication for such Catholics, and pastoral outreach for border agents struggling with their consciences.
Rally Sunday 9am: For Catholics, and all others concerned about what these policies are doing to kids, there is a rally Sunday morning at the Elizabeth Detention Center, Department of Homeland Security, Families Belong Together on Father’s Day and Every Day (details here). Rally co-sponsors include: Make the Road New Jersey, NJ Alliance for Immigrant Justice, ACLU of New Jersey, Make the Road New York, The NY Immigration Coalition, New Sanctuary Coalition, New York Civil Liberties Union. Read about the Detention Center, a privatized facility, here, here, and video here. The website GOOD also has ideas of how to help.
Featured photo: John Moore/Getty Images. A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border