They believe policies will 'further upend immigrant families'
By Matt Hadro
Washington D.C. (CNA)
Photo: A woman holds a sign during a protest against President Donald Trump's immigration policies during a demonstration Jan. 25. (Gregory A. Shemitz / CNS)
A leading bishop expressed alarm and dismay Wednesday following President Trump’s executive orders to increase immigrant detention centres and to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Every day, my brother bishops and I witness the harmful effects of immigrant detention in our ministries. We experience the pain of severed families that struggle to maintain a semblance of normal family life. We see traumatized children in our schools and in our churches,” said Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration.
“The policies announced today will only further upend immigrant families.”
President Trump issued multiple executive orders Wednesday on immigration.
He ordered a wall to be built on the U.S.-Mexico border. An estimated 650 miles of the 1,900 mile-long U.S.-Mexico border already have a wall.
“The purpose of this order is to direct executive departments and agencies to deploy all lawful means to secure the Nation's southern border, to prevent further illegal immigration into the United States, and to repatriate illegal aliens swiftly, consistently, and humanely,” President Trump said.
Saying that he is disheartened by Trump’s decision to prioritize the wall, Bishop Vasquez added that it will “put immigrant lives needlessly in harm’s way,” could increase the risk of women and child migrants being trafficked, and “destabilizes the many vibrant and beautifully interconnected communities that live peacefully along the border.”
Trump also ordered the construction of more immigrant detention facilities staffed with more lawyers and personnel to determine asylum claims, saying deportations and asylum hearings should be expedited.
The bishops have already spoken out about abuses of immigrants at detention centres, and Bishop Vasquez expressed “alarm” at Trump’s proposals to build more and to step up deportations. “It will tear families apart and spark fear and panic in communities,” he said.
“While we respect the right of the federal government to control our borders and ensure security for all Americans, we do not believe that a large-scale escalation of immigrant detention and intensive increased use of enforcement in immigrant communities is the way to achieve those goals.”
President Obama had previously set records for the number of deportations during his presidency, with over 2.5 million deportations of immigrants.
On Wednesday, Trump also called for “sanctuary cities” that harbour undocumented immigrants to be barred from federal funding.
“Aliens who illegally enter the United States without inspection or admission present a significant threat to national security and public safety,” he stated.
“The recent surge of illegal immigration at the southern border with Mexico has placed a significant strain on Federal resources and overwhelmed agencies charged with border security and immigration enforcement, as well as the local communities into which many of the aliens are placed.”
Responding to the announcement, Bishop Vasquez said, “We fear that the policies announced today will make it much more difficult for the vulnerable to access protection in our country.”
“We will continue to support and stand in solidarity with immigrant families,” he continued.
“We remind our communities and our nation that these families have intrinsic value as children of God.”