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What are bishops saying about the Trump refugee restrictions?—UPDATED

Fatih Aktas / ANADOLU AGENCY
ALEPPO, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 09: Syrians who flee the attacks of Syrian and Russian air forces to residential areas on Hayan, Haritan, Kafr, Anadan, Kafr Naya, Mayir and Ihris districts of Syria, try to live at tents and open areas at the Bab al-Salameh border crossing on Turkish-Syrian border near Azaz town of Aleppo, Syria on February 09, 2016. Fatih Aktas / Anadolu Agency
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Here’s a sample. You can read the complete texts at the links. I’ll be updating this as new statements and responses come in.

From Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the U.S.C.C.B. Committee on Migration:

We strongly disagree with the Executive Order’s halting refugee admissions. We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope. We will continue to engage the new administration, as we have all administrations for the duration of the current refugee program, now almost forty 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.

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 will redouble 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 this area of concern.

From Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington:

Last Friday at our Rallies and Masses for Life, and at the March for Life, our voices – our presence – could not be ignored in the defense of the unborn and life at every stage. So too now do we raise our voices in support of all refugees, especially those fleeing religious persecution.

As the federal government pursues any legitimate national security concerns, we hope that it will do so not at the expense of innocent people who are in need, and that it will take all necessary actions to ensure that their safety is protected and that it will expedite all processes to address the need for humanitarian relief.

Through organizations such as the Knights of Columbus and In Defense of Christians, we must continue to make our voices heard, urging the U.S. government to welcome in a particular way Christian refugees, who have been the object of genocide, and all men, women and children fleeing persecution, that they be protected and welcomed after swift but appropriate screening. Through our immigrant and refugee outreach programs, we must continue to serve as a visible sign of God’s mercy and our solidarity with our brothers and sisters no matter how far they may have traveled.

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.

From Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago:

The United States has a long history of welcoming refugees who are fleeing for their lives and Catholic organizations have helped to resettle many families, men, women, and children, from around the globe. Many of our priests, religious and laypeople have accompanied newcomers precisely to assist them in this process. Because of our history of aiding in refugee and migrant settlement for decades, we know the very lengthy and thorough vetting process they must face before they are admitted to our country. We have seen initial fear turn into a generous willingness of local communities to accept and integrate refugees. Here in Chicago generations of migrants have found a new home. We are better for it.

The world is watching as we abandon our commitments to American values. These actions give aid and comfort to those who would destroy our way of life. They lower our estimation in the eyes of the many peoples who want to know America as a defender of human rights and religious liberty, not a nation that targets religious populations and then shuts its doors on them.

It is time to put aside fear and join together to recover who we are and what we represent to a world badly in need of hope and solidarity. “If we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.” Pope Francis issued these challenging words to Congress in 2015, and 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 us.”

From Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark:

I understand the desire for every American to be assured of safe borders and freedom from terrorism.  The federal government should continue a prudent policy aimed at protecting citizens.

I also understand and heed the call of God, who through Moses told the people of Israel: “You shall not oppress an alien; you well know how it feels to be an alien, since you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt” (Ex 23:9).  Jesus asks His disciples to go further, calling on us to recognize Him in the stranger: “Whatsoever you did to the least of my brothers, you did to me” (Mt. 25:40).

Wednesday’s Executive Actions do not show the United States to be an open and welcoming nation.  They are the opposite of what it means to be an American.

Closing borders and building walls are not rational acts.  Mass detentions and wholesale deportation benefit no one; such inhuman policies destroy families and communities.

In fact, threatening the so-called “sanctuary cities” with the withdrawal of federal funding for vital services such as healthcare, education and transportation will not reduce immigration.  It only will harm all good people in those communities.

UPDATE:

From Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, in a letter to local imams:

Now that a federal government restriction has been placed upon refugees from mainly Muslim countries, I want to bring to your attention, and affirm my solidarity with, a January 27 statement made in Washington, D.C., by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Stating strong disagreement with the Executive Order, the bishops say “We believe in assisting all those who are vulnerable and fleeing persecution, regardless of their religion… welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope.” Additionally, I call to your attention a statement by me given on December 9, 2016: “We stand with our immigrant brothers and sisters.”

Please know that the Catholic community will continue to speak out and care for immigrants and refugees, no matter their religion or their country of origin. As I said in my statement last month: “Our local community in metro-Detroit is much richer for the contributions of our brothers and sisters from Mexico and El Salvador, from India and Pakistan, from Iraq and Syria, from China and Korea, from Ukraine and Poland, from Cameroon and Nigeria.”

Let us continue to stand together for the common good here in metro-Detroit.

From Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scanton:

Not unlike those who settled in the United States a century ago, the vast majority of today’s immigrants simply seek a better life for themselves and their families. Sadly, many of these same individuals also look to our great land as a refuge in the face of persecution, war and terror in their homelands. These refugees are vetted through a rigorous program that has proven to be effective over the course of many years.

Our Catholic faith calls us to respect life: to welcome the stranger, to treat every life with dignity and respect, and to offer compassion to all, regardless of their country of origin or religious background. Simply put, turning our backs on the most vulnerable in need of our help is not consistent with the values upon which our country was founded and is not consistent with the message of the gospel of Jesus.

Pope Francis urged Americans to put aside fear and instead offer the world hope and solidarity. In 2015, he shared these challenging words to members of the United States Congress and to the people of America,’If we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.’

From Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego:

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.

From Bishop Peter Jurgis in Charlotte:

It is very disappointing to learn that two refugee families scheduled to arrive in Charlotte this week have been turned away. We have decades of experience in settling thousands of families fleeing persecution in their native country. These people have made a rich contribution to the life and culture of western North Carolina.  I join with my brother bishops in the effort to work vigorously to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans. As Catholics we respond to the Biblical call to welcome the stranger – it is an act of love and hope.

From Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh:

 

 

We pray that our president and elected leaders will step back and review our current policies for immigration, as well as proposed reforms. American policies have been rooted in compassion and justice. We cannot abandon those virtues now. They define us to the world.

We do have a national responsibility to secure our borders. But our borders do not become more secure by locking out good and desperate people. That engenders only anger and hatred. We will secure our borders when we increase opportunities for legal immigration—with an equitable path to citizenship for undocumented residents—and we enforce our laws in ways that honor due process, the sanctity of the human person and the family as the foundation of our communities.

We so proudly marched last week in defense of human life. We must now stand up for those immigrants and refugees who are looking to come to America. Some of them are quite literally fleeing for their lives. They are coming to America with their eyes on the lit torch of Lady Liberty.

Let’s not extinguish that light when the world needs it the most.

Deacon Greg Kandra
Headlines and Homilies
Deacon Greg Kandra is a Roman Catholic deacon in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York. For nearly three decades, he was a writer and producer for CBS News, where he contributed to a variety of programs and was honored with every major award in broadcasting. Deacon Greg now serves as Multimedia Editor for Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA.) He and his wife live in Forest Hills, New York.
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