WASHINGTON—The Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin and Chair of the USCCB Committee on Migration, says that President Trump’s latest Executive Order still puts vulnerable populations around the world at risk. In a statement issued after the announcement of today’s travel suspension, Bishop Vásquez says that while we seek to maintain our values and safety, we must also exercise compassion in assisting and continuing to welcome the stranger.
Bishop Vázquez’s full statement follows:
“We remain deeply troubled by the human consequences of the revised executive order on refugee admissions and the travel ban. While we note the Administration’s efforts to modify the Executive Order in light of various legal concerns, the revised Order still leaves many innocent lives at risk.
The removal of one of the original seven predominantly Muslim countries temporarily barred from entering the United States is welcome, but we are disappointed that the revised order maintains the temporary shutdown of the U.S. refugee admissions program, continues the more than 60 percent reduction in the number of refugees who can be resettled into the United States this year, and still temporarily bars nationals from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.
The U.S. Catholic Bishops have long recognized the importance of ensuring public safety and would welcome reasonable and necessary steps to accomplish that goal.
However, based on the knowledge that refugees are already subjected to the most vigorous vetting process of anyone who enters the United States, there is no merit to pausing the refugee resettlement program while considering further improvement to that vetting process.
The United States has long provided leadership in resettling refugees. We believe in assisting all those who are vulnerable and fleeing persecution, regardless of their religion, including Christians, Muslims, and all others. We believe that by helping to resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith and “welcoming the stranger” as Jesus has challenged us to do.
Today, more than 65 million people around the world are forcibly displaced from their homes. Given this extraordinary level of suffering, the U.S. Catholic Bishops reaffirm their support for, and efforts to protect, all who flee persecution and violence, as just one part of the perennial and global work of the Church in defense of vulnerable persons. Resettling only 50,000 refugees a year, down from 110,000, does not reflect the need, our compassion, and our capacity as a nation. We have the ability to continue to assist the most vulnerable among us without sacrificing our values as Americans or the safety and security of our nation.”
U.S. Bishops Chair on Migration Responds to DHS Memoranda on Immigration Enforcement and Border Security
February 23 2017
WASHINGTON—On February 20, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued two memoranda implementing Executive Orders 13768 and 13767, relating to border and interior immigration enforcement. In response to the memoranda, the Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin and Chair of the USCCB Committee on Migration, has issued the following statement:
“We recognize the importance of ensuring public safety and would welcome reasonable and necessary steps to do that. However, the two memoranda issued by Secretary Kelly on February 20th contain a number of provisions that, if implemented as written, will harm public safety rather than enhance it. Moreover, taken in their entirety, the policies contained in these memoranda will needlessly separate families, upend peaceful communities, endanger the lives and safety of the most vulnerable among us, breakdown the trust that currently exists between many police departments and immigrant communities, and sow great fear in those communities.
The DHS memoranda eliminates important protections for vulnerable populations, including unaccompanied children and asylum seekers. They greatly expand the militarization of the U.S./Mexico border. Taken together, these memoranda constitute the establishment of a large-scale enforcement system that targets virtually all undocumented migrants as ‘priorities’ for deportation, thus prioritizing no one. The memoranda further seek to promote local law enforcement of federal immigration laws without regard for the existing relationships of trust between local law enforcement officials and immigrant communities. The engagement of local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law can undermine public safety by making many who live in immigrant communities fearful of cooperating with local law enforcement in both reporting and investigating criminal matters.
I urge the Administration to reconsider the approach embodied in these memoranda, just as it should reconsider the approach it has taken in a number of executive orders and actions issued over the last month. Together, these have placed already vulnerable immigrants among us in an even greater state of vulnerability.
Moving forward, we remain steadfast in our commitment to care for and respect the human dignity of all, regardless of their immigration status. During this unsettling time, we will redouble our work to accompany and protect our immigrant brothers and sisters and recognize their contributions and inherent dignity as children of God.”