WASHINGTON, D.C. — CatholicVote, an independent political advocacy group, has filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration seeking information about how the government and church-affiliated groups, mainly in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, have gone about “facilitating a record surge in illegal immigration.”
The lawsuit was filed under the Freedom of Information Act Feb. 4 with Judicial Watch.
The suit said the organizations want records of communication between administration officials and the Diocese of Brownsville; Bishop Daniel E. Flores, who heads the diocese; Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley; Sister Norma Pimentel, “in her capacity as the executive director of the local Catholic Charities;” and the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, which Pimentel is known for administrating.
A Feb. 9 email said CatholicVote was “demanding transparency from the federal government and to know whether and how it has funded and coordinated with Catholic-affiliated charities in facilitating a record surge in illegal immigration.”
A news release issued the same day by the Wisconsin-based group said the administration has refused to provide information on its communication with the Catholic-affiliated border charities mentioned in the suit.
Judicial Watch is a Washington-based activist group that files FOIA lawsuits to investigate government officials’ conduct.
“American Catholics deserve to know the full extent of the U.S. government’s role in funding and coordinating with Catholic Church-affiliated agencies at the border, and what role these agencies played in the record surge of illegal immigrants over the past year,” Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote, said in a statement.
“We will do whatever is necessary to uncover the truth,” he said.
The Catholic faith tradition, because of its long and noted history of being forced to be on the move, provides programs throughout the world to welcome and accompany those who are forced to leave their homelands. It’s a position historically backed by the work of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as well as Catholic groups in the U.S. and around the world.
CatholicVote also said it was seeking “all communications” between the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and the USCCB as they pertain to Pimentel, the respite center and the Catholic Charities agency with which she is affiliated.
Pimentel, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, has received praise, including from Pope Francis, for her work with migrants under the auspices of the Brownsville Diocese, which helps those who cross into the U.S. near the McAllen and Brownsville area at the respite center, close to the U.S.-Mexico border.
On Feb. 10, Fox News reported that Republican Congressman Lance Gooden, of Texas, had sent the network a letter in which he questioned Catholic organizations about their role at the border and accused them of helping fuel problems at the southern border.
Fox said Gooden had written to several faith-based nonprofits, also called nongovernmental organizations or NGOs, including Catholic Charities USA, about retaining “any relevant documents and communications related to encouraging, transporting and harboring aliens to come to, enter or reside in the United States, needed for future oversight or legislative requests from the United States Congress.”
“I am troubled by the growing role NGOs have in fueling the drastic increase in illegal immigration across our southern border and throughout the country,” Fox said, quoting an email the congressman sent to the network.
The congressman’s letter also was sent to the faith-based groups Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and Jewish Family Services. Both organizations also help migrants.