Faith

Catholic Bishops to Immigration Officials: Separating Families 'Does Not Allay Security Concerns'

Camila Duarte, center, of Venezuela, speaks in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices June 1, 2018, in Miramar, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called on the Department of Homeland Security to not inflict “trauma” on children by separating them from parents applying for asylum at the border or apprehended crossing into the country illegally.

“If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the Gatlinburg Law Enforcement Training Conference in Tennessee on May 8. “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”

Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, said in a statement Friday that “forcibly separating children from their mothers and fathers is ineffective to the goals of deterrence and safety and contrary to our Catholic values.”

“Family unity is a cornerstone of our American immigration system and a foundational element of Catholic teaching. ‘Children are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward.’ (Psalm 127:3) Children are not instruments of deterrence but a blessing from God,” he said.

“Rupturing the bond between parent and child causes scientifically-proven trauma that often leads to irreparable emotional scarring. Accordingly, children should always be placed in the least restrictive setting: a safe, family environment, ideally with their own families.”

Vásquez said all of the bishops “understand the need for the security of our borders and country, but separating arriving families at the U.S./Mexico border does not allay security concerns.”

“Children and families will continue to take the enormous risks of migration — including family separation — because the root causes of migration from the Northern Triangle remain: community or state-sanctioned violence, gang recruitment, poverty, and a lack of educational opportunity,” he added. “Any policies should address these factors first as we seek to repair our broken immigration system.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Thursday that she plans on introducing legislation to stop the separation of children from parents at the border.

“It’s hard to conceive of a policy more horrific than intentionally separating children from their parents as a form of punishment,” Feinstein said. “…Congress has a moral obligation to take a stand here.”

She said the “terrible policies call into question whether we are in violation of our own laws and our obligations under international law.”

President Trump tweeted last weekend, “Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there parents once they cross the Border into the U.S. Catch and Release, Lottery and Chain must also go with it and we MUST continue building the WALL! DEMOCRATS ARE PROTECTING MS-13 THUGS.”