Initial reaction to refugee ban ranges from concern to opposition

By Mark Pattison

(CNS) — Within hours of President Donald Trump’s new executive order March
6 banning refugees from six majority-Muslim nations, Catholic and other
religious groups joined secular leaders in questioning the wisdom of such a
move, with others vowing to oppose it outright.

Bill O’Keefe,
vice president for advocacy and government relations at Catholic Relief
Services, said in a statement, “As the world’s most blessed nation, we should
be doing more to provide assistance overseas and resettle the most vulnerable,
not less. It is wrong, during this time of great need, to cut humanitarian assistance
and reduce resettlement.”

added, “Refugees are fleeing the same terrorism that we seek to protect
ourselves from. By welcoming them, we show the world that we are an open,
tolerant nation which seeks to protect the vulnerable. That has always been
America’s greatest strength.”

“At the
heart of the work of Catholic Charities is the Gospel mandate to welcome the
stranger and care for the most vulnerable among us,” said Dominican Sister Donna
Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, in a statement.

executive order not only hinders that work, but also effectively abandons, for
four months, the thousands of endangered refugees fleeing violence, starvation
and persecution,” she added. “It is deeply disturbing to know that the
thousands of women, children and other persecuted individuals around the world
will face a closed door rather than a helping hand from the United States.”

The revised order replaces Trump’s Jan.
27 order, which has been blocked in the courts. The new order imposes a 90-day
ban on issuing visas to people from six predominantly Muslim nations; Iraq is
no longer on the list. The countries are Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and

It suspends the U.S. refugee program for
all countries for 120 days. It also excludes lawful permanent residents —
green card holders — from any travel ban. The new order will not take effect
until March 16.

ban regarding human beings, because they are from a certain country or practice
a particular religion is clearly xenophobic, nationalistic and racist,” said a
statement by Sister Patricia Chappell, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, who is executive
director of Pax Christi USA.

“Now is
the time to honor the commitment for justice expressed in all faith communities
and to proclaim this commitment with actions that uphold the rights of all
people,” she added.

Scott Wright, director of the Columban
Center for Advocacy and Outreach, said that Columbans “have always welcomed migrants and refugees, we do so every day at the
U.S.-Mexico border.”

“We must always remember that we are a nation of
immigrants and refugees and we are called to stand in solidarity with them,” he said.

People of faith “are called to both address the root causes of migration and
seek policies of welcome toward our migrant sisters and brothers,” Wright continued. “We stand
against any policies that seek to build a wall, inhumanely detain and deport
women and families, or limit migration based solely on a person’s country of
origin or religion.”

McCarthy, director of justice and peace for the Congregation of Major
Superiors of Men, called it “completely unjust to punish an entire country due to the suspicion of a
potential crime by an individual.”

“We should be asking about the root causes of
violent acts, such as U.S. militarization of conflicts, and giving our
attention to addressing those concrete situations,” he said in a statement.

religious have been blessed to be able to accompany and serve immigrant and
refugee communities across this country for a very long time,” said a statement
by Holy Cross Sister Joan Marie Steadman, executive director of the Leadership
Conference of Women Religious. “Catholic sisters remain committed to welcoming
those who come to this country after passing through the U.S. government’s
already rigorous screening processes.”

Couch, director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good
Shepherd, aimed his statement directly at Trump.

President, why close our borders to those fleeing real atrocities, fleeing the
ravages of war and the search for food, clean water and safety?” Couch asked. “This
is not what America stands for and not who we are called to be. America is not
a country that retreats and Americans choose to not live in fear of the ‘what
if.’ Mr. President, welcome the refugee and welcome the face of God.”

ban goes against everything that we stand for as Franciscan Catholic
Christians, and against what Jesus and Francis of Assisi taught and lived,”
said a statement from Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action
Network. “St. Bonaventure tells us that how we choose and what we choose makes
a difference — first in what we become by our choices and second what the world
becomes by our choices.”

A statement from the organization’s associate director,
Franciscan Sister Marie Lucey, tied the situation of refugees and the need to welcome them into the U.S. to Lent.

Christians, Lent is a season of repentance for personal and social sin. The
Franciscan Action Network will stand in prayer and solidarity with Muslim
sisters and brothers, as well as all refugees and immigrants, during the forty
days of Lent,” she said.

opposing bans and harmful executive orders, we also pray for a change of hearts
and minds of this administration and legislators who support anti-refugee and
anti-immigrant measures,” Sister Lucey added. “We will also continue to speak
out against this injustice which is as cruel and unusual as it is astounding
and irreconcilable.”

Sara Benitez, Latino program director for the interfaith group Faith in Public Life, said that once again Trump “is compromising our integrity as a nation.”

“The refugee
ban introduced today is rooted in the same immoral and divisive policy we saw a
few weeks ago, and we will not stand for it,” she said in a statement.

must continue the work on the ground to stand up for our immigrant and refugee
neighbors who are under threat,” added Benitez, whose organization amassed
dozens of pastors for a midafternoon protest March 6 in front of the White

Faith in Public Life also has mounted a “Build Bridges, Not Walls”
campaign to list ways people can support refugees and other immigrants.

new order doubles down on demonizing refugees — implying that America should
fear those who have been persecuted, tortured, threatened and victimized by
terrorists. America is diminished when we abandon our values and close our
doors,” said a statement by said Linda Hartke, president and CEO of Lutheran
Immigration and Refugee Service, or LIRS.

the new executive order been in place last month, it would have likely
prevented LIRS from reuniting Mushkaad Abdi, a 4-year-old Somali refugee who
was alone in Kampala, Uganda, with her mother and sisters in Minneapolis,”
Hartke added. “To close our nation’s doors on those who are simply seeking
safety and protection is shameful and misguided.”

the White House may have made changes to the ban, the intent to discriminate
against Muslims remains clear. This doesn’t just harm the families caught in
the chaos of President Trump’s draconian policies – it’s diametrically opposed
to our values, and makes us less safe,” said a statement from Eric
Schneiderman, New York state’s attorney general.

Schneiderman took the
White House to court after Trump’s first executive order; other court challenges around the country followed.

office is closely reviewing the new executive order, and I stand ready to
litigate — again — in order to protect New York’s families, institutions, and
economy,” Schneiderman said.

commenting on the executive order itself, Nina Shea, director of the Hudson
Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, said: “There’s a dire need for President
Trump to issue a separate executive order — one specifically aimed to help
ISIS (Islamic State) genocide survivors in Iraq and Syria. … Even if ISIS is routed from
Mosul (Iraq), the Christian community is now so shattered and vulnerable, without
President Trump’s prompt leadership, the entire Iraqi Christian presence could
soon be wiped out.”

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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