From the Diocese of Orange in California:
Bishop Kevin Vann has sent a letter to all Diocese of Orange parishes directing them to be prepared in the event of an encounter with immigration enforcement officials at or near a church, school, hospital or clinic. The letter went out after reports of a van believed to belong to Immigration and Customs Enforcement was photographed on the Christ Cathedral campus Feb. 17. It turned out that the van belonged to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and an officer was at the cathedral to participate in an honor guard at a veteran’s funeral service.But the report, which was subsequently publicized by Rep. Lou Correa’s office last week, created a stir among Orange County Catholics, said Greg Walgenbach, the diocese’s Director of Life, Justice and Peace. He said the incident involving the border patrol vehicle is not the only one that has created angst among the county’s 1.5 million Catholics, 40 percent of whom are Latino. “We’ve had two incidents at our (Catholic) hospitals or clinics and have heard other stories from people in the communities,” Walgenbach said. “We want to have procedures in place so our parishioners are well-equipped to deal with these situations. And we want ICE to know that we’re paying close attention to what they’re doing. We don’t want any of their vehicles on our campuses.” He added that about 60 percent of Orange County’s Catholic Latinos are immigrants. ICE officials are “doing everything to be responsive and transparent,” said ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice, reiterating that ICE has policies telling officers to avoid sensitive locations including schools, houses of worship and hospitals; religious observations such as weddings and funerals; and marches, rallies or parades. Officials would need prior approval from a supervisor or other special permission to carry out enforcement actions at these locations, she said. “When people put out misinformation, it creates panic and puts our officers and the general public at risk,” Kice said. “We ask the public to reach out to us and verify before you vilify.” Still, the diocese is not taking any chances, Walgenbach said. Earlier in the year, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles along with the dioceses of Orange and San Bernardino teamed up to produce a 50-page informational package. “There’s also a skit we do at parishes to show people how to react when ICE comes to your door,” he said. You don’t open the door – you ask to see a warrant under the door and you have a right to remain silent, Walgenbach said. “These are rights all of us have and we want to make sure everyone understands those rights,” he said.