– Controversial immigration policies issued by President Donald Trump have thus far prompted numerous critiques from concerned U.S. Catholic bishops.
The most recent order, issued February 20, directed officials to more aggressively find, arrest, and deport illegal immigrants, regardless of whether they have committed serious crimes.
In his most recent column, “Standing in Solidarity”, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln joined other bishops in their criticism of the order, saying it would do “very little to resolve the immigration problems in our country.”
“Nor will it meaningfully impact the security of our nation, or the safety of our citizens,” he said.
He noted that the previous administration also oversaw numerous deportations, which had little effect on the security of the nation.
“Mass deportation is a panacea: the appearance of an answer without really resolving anything,” he said.
In his column, Conley explained that the Catholic Church’s teaching on immigration is based on three principles: “(T)hat families have the right to migrate for economic opportunities, for freedom, or for safety; that nations have the right to security, to fixed borders and ordered policies for immigrants; that as an obligation of justice and mercy, nations who can receive immigrants without detriment to the welfare of their citizens should do so.”
Conley argued that the United States government “does not adequately address its citizens’ right to safety,” nor does it “adequately respect the natural right of families to migration.”
“In short, our immigration system is broken, and that broken system is the cause of serious injustice,” he wrote.
“Whatever the reason for it, our broken immigration system is an injustice to immigrants and to all Americans. That injustice has tragic consequences in the lives of real families, who reflect the image of the Trinity.”
The state of Nebraska and its capital city of Lincoln, where Conley is based, are known for being particularly welcoming to refugees. Last year, Nebraska led the nation in resettling the most refugees per capita, according to federal government data. The state is a strong draw for refugees because of its stable economy and accessibility to jobs.
In 2016, Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska resettled 231 people (72 families), and placed 47 people in employment within three months of their arrival to the U.S.
These refugees were primarily from the countries of Burma, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, and Afghanistan. Four of these countries – Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Sudan – are Muslim-majority countries listed on the previous visa ban issued by Trump.
Conley urged Catholics to remember that nearly 40 percent of Hispanics in the United States are Catholic, and that the Catholic Church in America is an immigrant Church.
There was once a time in the history of the nation where Catholic immigrants from Germany, Ireland, Bohemia, Italy, and many other nations were similarly attacked, he said.
He urged the faithful to stand in solidarity with their fellow members of the Body of Christ when they are unfairly stereotyped as “thuggish criminals or economic liabilities,” and encouraged them to “expect better” policies from their government than mass deportations and extreme policies that hurt the vulnerable.
“I stand in solidarity with immigrant families living in fear of what might be coming for them. I stand in solidarity with American citizens, looking for real security, instead of political showmanship and rhetoric. I stand in solidarity with those politicians and law enforcement agents working to find fair and humane solutions to complex problems. I stand in solidarity with those living in poverty or danger, seeking some promise of safety, and opportunity for their children,” he wrote.
“As Catholics, we must continue to call for real, comprehensive, safe, and just immigration reform. But we cannot accept the panacea of mass detention and deportation. Americans, immigrants, and the Church should expect something better than that.”
Trump is expected to issue a new executive order on immigration this week, after his first executive order on immigration was temporarily blocked by a federal judge February 4.