Update: Catholic leaders react to Trump's plan to send troops to border

IMAGE: CNS photo/Loren Elliott, Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Catholic leaders in Texas criticized
President Donald Trump’s April 4 announcement that he would be deploying
National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border.

In an April 5 tweet, San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo
Garcia-Siller said Trump’s move was a “senseless action and a disgrace on
the administration.” He also said the decision to send troops to the
border demonstrated “repression, fear, a perception that everyone is an
enemy, and a very clear message: We don’t care about anybody else. This is not
the American spirit.”

The Diocese of El Paso’s Commission on Migration similarly
criticized Trump’s decision, saying in an April 4 statement that the plan was
“morally irresponsible and dangerously ineffective.”

The statement, signed by Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso and
co-chairs of the committee, Lily Limon and Dylan Corbett, also said the action
was “a hurtful attack on migrants, our welcoming border culture and our
shared values as Americans.”

The next
day, Bishop Seitz issued his own statement on Trump’s announcement, calling it a
“rash and ill-informed action” which he asked the president to

is time for Mr. Trump to stop playing on people’s unfounded fears,” he
added, noting that he lives on the border and his city is “one of the
safest in the country.”

bishop said the troops will “find no enemy combatants here, just poor
people seeking to live in peace and security. They will find no opposition
forces, just people seeking to live in love and harmony with their family
members and neighbors and business partners and fellow Christians on both sides
of the border.”

Mexican bishops’ conference also responded to Trump’s action tweeting April 5:
“It’s very dangerous for our Mexican and Latin American people to have a
semi-militarized border,” saying migrants could be executed just trying to cross
the border.

The memorandum Trump signed about the border said the
situation there “has now reached a point of crisis. The lawlessness that
continues at our southern border is fundamentally incompatible with the safety,
security, and sovereignty of the American people. My administration has no
choice but to act.”

The memorandum did not offer specifics about the number of
troops that would be deployed or length of time they would be stationed along
the border. It said the deployment would be done in coordination with
governors. On April 5, the president
said he was considering sending “anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000” troops and
he told reporters that the troops, “or a large portion of them” would
stay until a border wall is constructed.

The signed memorandum said Trump has the right to take this
step, stating that the president may ask the secretary of defense to support
the work of the Department of Homeland Security in securing the border,
“including by requesting use of the National Guard, and to take other
necessary steps to stop the flow of deadly drugs and other contraband, gang
members and other criminals, and illegal aliens into the country.” The
memorandum said: “The security of the United States is imperiled by a
drastic surge of illegal activity on the southern border.”

It also noted precedence for such an action, citing
decisions by both President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush to send
troops. Obama sent 1,200 National Guard troops to the border in 2010 in
Operation Phalanx; initially they were to stay there from July 2010 until the
end of June 2011. But their stay was extended into 2012, though that year the
number of troops was scaled back. Bush ordered 6,000 troops to the border in
2006 in Operation Jump Start; they stayed from June 2006 to July 2008.

In 2014, Gov. Rick Perry sent 1,000 Texas National Guard
troops to the border after an influx of unaccompanied minors from Central
America were seeking asylum in the United States.

Although some members of Congress have criticized Trump’s
plan, calling it a political move and a waste of military resources, the
Republican governors of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico — all states that border
Mexico — have supported it.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey tweeted April 4: “Arizona
welcomes the deployment of National Guard to the border. Washington has ignored
this issue for too long and help is needed. For Arizona, it’s all about public

And Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement that he
welcomes Trump’s plan which he said reinforces the state’s commitment to secure
and uphold the law. “Going forward,” he said, “Texas will
continue to implement robust border security efforts, and this partnership will
help ensure we are doing everything we can to stem the flow of illegal

The El Paso diocesan commission’s statement, also signed by the Texas-based
Hope Border Institute, said the border community already knows the
“painful moral and human consequences of the militarization of our

“Our undocumented brothers and sisters go through daily
existence trapped between checkpoints and failed laws,” the statement
said, adding that “asylum seekers fleeing terror and seeking mercy at our
border are imprisoned and separated from their families.”

The commission also said the border has never been more secure
and called it “irresponsible to deploy armed soldiers in our

Instead, it stressed “working together to address the
dehumanizing poverty and insecurity in our sister countries in Latin America
and around the world” to resolve root causes that drive migration and
finding a way to “end the hopelessness in our communities that fuels our
nation’s addiction to drugs, which deals only death and destruction to the
people of our continent.”

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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