The Trump administration's recent policy changes in border security and immigration enforcement, particularly the move to separate parents from their children, has drawn outcry from a number of Catholic leaders like Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo.
"Like so many others, I am shocked at the unbelievable number of children being separated from their parents at our U.S./Mexico border," Bishop Malone said in an excerpt from his July Western New York Catholic column. "We can all recognize that children are inherently vulnerable and thus should not be separated from their parents unless there are valid concerns about abuse or trafficking. Family unity is a foundational element of Catholic teaching and must also be a cornerstone of our U.S. immigration system."
According to the Department of Homeland Security, about 2,000 children of all ages have been separated from their parents over the past six weeks under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy. The policy has drawn bipartisan criticism, and now the Catholic Church, as leadership continues to weigh in as the news of the detained children develops.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops president, issued a statement condemning the recent policy changes, which included U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' declaration that women victimized by domestic violence will not be granted asylum in the United States.
"At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life," Cardinal DiNardo said. "The attorney general's recent decision elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection. These vulnerable women will now face return to the extreme dangers of domestic violence in their home country.
"I join Bishop Joe Vásquez, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Migration, in condemning the continued use of family separation at the U.S./Mexico border as an implementation of the administration's zero tolerance policy. Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma. Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together. While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral."
Sessions cited a Bible passage of St. Paul, which called for people to obey the laws of the government in Romans 13, in defending the zero tolerance policy. In an interview with CNN, Cardinal Timothy D. Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York said the attorney general explained the attorney general is missing context.
"The message is pretty clear from Jesus," Cardinal Dolan said. "The quote that he used from St. Paul might not be the best. For one, St. Paul always said we should obey the law from the government, if that law if in conformity with the Lord's law. No pun intended, but God's law trumps man's law.
"I don't think we should obey a law that goes against what God intends, when you take a baby from his or her mom. That's just unjust, that's unbiblical, that's un-American. There can be no Bible passage that would justify that."