DiNardo: Local officers shouldn't be required to enforce immigration laws


law enforcement and local jurisdictions should not be required to enforce federal
immigration law, said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston,
president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Local law enforcement
officials “work long hours to protect our communities” and efforts to
charge them with the responsibility of enforcing immigration law should be
opposed, he said, because this “would fundamentally alter the relationship
our local law enforcement officials maintain with local communities, especially
immigrant communities.”

Local police can work
with federal law enforcement in dealing with “violent criminal
aliens,” Cardinal DiNardo said, but the “burden” of enforcing
federal immigration law would be “taking away from their efforts to ensure
public safety” while they are “pursuing those who are otherwise
law-abiding.” He added, “It also makes immigrant communities
reluctant to report crimes and to cooperate with the police.”

Cardinal DiNardo made
his remarks June 9 in the opening address of a conference in Houston,
“Mobilizing Coherent Community Responses to Changing Immigration

The three-day event was
hosted by the Center for Migration Studies of New York, the Cabrini Center for
Immigrant Legal Assistance of Catholic Charities of Galveston-Houston, the
Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative and the South Texas College of
Law Houston.

Cardinal DiNardo noted
the U.S. bishops for years have pushed for comprehensive immigration reform, but
the nation’s refugee and immigration policy, he said, is going the opposite
direction, with a renewed emphasis on enforcement-only efforts.

The cardinal criticized
a new Texas law that requires local police to enforce U.S. immigration laws.
“Over the long term, (it) will weaken, and not strengthen, public
safety,” he said. “By requiring jurisdictions in Texas to act as
immigration agents, the law would create fear in immigrant communities
throughout Texas and divert police attention from their primary mission: to
protect the general public.”

Cardinal DiNardo lauded
the position by Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo on the law.

At a news conference
April 27, the day after the Texas House passed the bill, Acevedo said,
“I’ll be real frank with you: These police officers joined this profession
not to stop people jaywalking and ask for their papers,” adding that
“if all the sudden I have a police officer who decides ‘I’m going to go
play ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agent all day and harass day
laborers at Home Depot,’ explain to me, when I lose my authority to tell my
officers they can’t do that, how does that enhance public safety? Tell me that
with a straight face.”

Cardinal DiNardo said
Catholic teaching clearly “supports the right of a sovereign nation to
ensure the integrity of its borders and to enforce its laws. We object, however,
when laws and policies fail to respect human rights or fail to ensure due
process in its justice system. Often the U.S. immigration system does not meet
this test.”

The bishops support the
role of the Border Patrol but are concerned with border politics, he added.

The Catholic Church
also believes, he said, the United States “must continue to protect
those who ask for our protection from persecution in their homelands.”

“As the world’s
richest nation, we are able to resettle far more than 50,000 refugees a year,
all of whom are themselves fleeing terror of some kind,” Cardinal DiNardo
said. “As many of you know, the security process for vetting refugees is
more stringent than for any other entrant into the United States, lasting as
long as two years, in some cases. As a nation, we can ensure our security
without sacrificing our humanity.”

Even now, he noted,
“we are witnessing a humanitarian crisis in the Northern Triangle of
Central America, in which unaccompanied minors and family units are fleeing
gang violence in their countries. We must not respond to this outflow with
deterrence policies, marked by family detention, interdiction, and the lack of
due process. Instead, we must respond with protection policies, to ensure that
those who are at risk, especially the vulnerable, are not returned to

Responding in this way,
Cardinal DiNardo said, “is our responsibility under international
agreements and to our fellow human beings.”

The cardinal reviewed
Catholic teaching from the pope and the U.S. bishops on immigration.
“Christ himself experienced the feeling of leaving one’s homeland,”
first in fleeing with Mary and Joseph into Egypt to escape Herod’s terror, then
as “an itinerant preacher, who, in the Gospel of Matthew, had ‘no place to
lay his head,'” Cardinal DiNardo said.

Pope Francis, he noted,
has said that “migrants are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity,”
and has made migration “one of the signature issues of his papacy,
opposing the ‘globalization of indifference’ to the plight of migrants and refugees.”

Elements of the kind of
immigration reform sought by the bishops include provisions for
“undocumented immigrants who have built equities in our country and have
been otherwise law-abiding (to be) put on a path to citizenship,” Cardinal
DiNardo said. “Instead of deporting such people, we should allow them a
chance to get on the right side of the law, so they can fully contribute their
skills and gifts to our society. We also need to increase the legal avenues for
immigrants and families to migrate in a safe and orderly manner.”

“We are at a
crossroads in our nation’s history,” he said. The country can either “abdicate
our moral responsibility and our global leadership in protecting human rights”
or choose “to remain the leader in upholding humanitarian values in our
nation and around the world.”

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