Trump's action banning refugees brings outcry from U.S. church leaders


WASHINGTON (CNS) — President Donald Trump’s executive
memorandum intended to restrict the entry of terrorists coming to the United
States brought an outcry from Catholic leaders across the U.S.

Church leaders used phrases such as “devastating,”
“chaotic” and “cruel” to describe the Jan. 27 action that
left already-approved refugees and immigrants stranded at U.S. airports and led
the Department of Homeland Security to rule that green card holders — lawful
permanent U.S. residents — be allowed into the country.

“This weekend proved to be a dark moment in U.S.
history,” Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said in a Jan. 29
statement. “The executive order to turn away refugees and to close our
nation to those, particularly Muslims, fleeing violence, oppression and
persecution is contrary to both Catholic and American values. Have we not
repeated the disastrous decisions of those in the past who turned away other
people fleeing violence, leaving certain ethnicities and religions marginalized
and excluded? We Catholics know that history well, for, like others, we have
been on the other side of such decisions.

“Their design and implementation have been rushed,
chaotic, cruel and oblivious to the realities that will produce enduring
security for the United States,” he said. “They have left people
holding valid visas and other proper documents detained in our airports, sent
back to the places some were fleeing or not allowed to board planes headed
here. Only at the 11th hour did a federal judge intervene to suspend this
unjust action.”

“The Protection of the Nation From Foreign Terrorist
Entry Into the United States,” which suspends the entire U.S. refugee
resettlement program for 120 days, bans entry from all citizens of seven
majority-Muslim countries — Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia
— for 90 days. It also establishes a religious criteria for refugees,
proposing to give priority to religious minorities over others who may have
equally compelling refugee claims.

“We are told this is not the ‘Muslim ban’ that had been
proposed during the presidential campaign, but these actions focus on Muslim-majority
countries,” said Cardinal Cupich. “Ironically, this ban does not
include the home country of 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers. Yet, people from
Iraq, even those who assisted our military in a destructive war, are

The cardinal quoted Pope Francis’ remarks to Congress in
2015: “If we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us
give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.”

He said Pope Francis “followed with a warning that
should haunt us as we come to terms with the events of the weekend: ‘The
yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for

Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego said the executive action was “the introduction into law of campaign sloganeering rooted in xenophobia
and religious prejudice. Its devastating consequences are already apparent for
those suffering most in our world, for our standing among nations, and for the
imperative of rebuilding unity within our country rather than tearing us
further apart.”

“This week the Statue of Liberty lowered its torch in a
presidential action which repudiates our national heritage and ignores the
reality that Our Lord and the Holy Family were themselves Middle Eastern
refugees fleeing government oppression. We cannot and will not stand
silent,” he said in a statement Jan. 29.

Shortly after Trump signed the document at the Pentagon’s
Hall of Heroes, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, said the bishops
“strongly disagree” with the action to halt refugee resettlement.

“We believe that now more than ever, welcoming
newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope,” Bishop Vasquez said.

The USCCB runs the largest refugee resettlement program in the
United States, and Bishop Vasquez said the church would continue to engage the
administration, as it had with administrations for 40 years.

“We will work vigorously to ensure that refugees are humanely
welcomed in collaboration with Catholic Charities without sacrificing our
security or our core values as Americans, and to ensure that families may be
reunified with their loved ones,” he said.

He also reiterated the bishops’ commitment to protect the
most vulnerable, regardless of religion. All “are children of God and are
entitled to be treated with human dignity. We believe that by helping to
resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith as Jesus
has challenged us to do.”

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington called attention to
the USCCB statement and the executive action and noted that “the legal
situation is still fluid and news reports are sometimes confusing.”

“The political debate, which is complex and emotionally
highly charged, will continue, but we must do our best to remain focused on the
pastoral and very real work we undertake every day for the vulnerable and most
in need … for the strangers at our doors,” he said.

Around the country, people gathered at airports to express
solidarity with immigrants and green card holders denied admission, including
an Iraqi who had helped the 101st Airborne during the Iraqi war. More than 550
people gathered at Lafayette Park across from the White House Jan. 29 to
celebrate Mass in solidarity with refugees.

In a letter to the president and members of Congress, more
than 2,000 religious leaders representing the Interfaith Immigration Coalition
objected to the action.

In a separate statement, Jesuit Refugee Services-USA said
the provisions of the executive action “violate Catholic social teaching
that calls us to welcome the stranger and treat others with the compassion and
solidarity that we would wish for ourselves.”

Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief
Services, said: “Welcoming those in need is part of America’s DNA.

“Denying entry to people desperate enough to leave
their homes, cross oceans in tiny boats, and abandon all their worldly
possessions just to find safety will not make our nation safer. The United States
is already using a thorough vetting process for refugees — especially for
those from Syria and surrounding countries. CRS welcomes measures that will
make our country safer, but they shouldn’t jeopardize the safety of those
fleeing violence; should not add appreciable delay nor entail unjust
discrimination, ” he said.

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