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American Bishops speak out against asylum limits, border separations

Bishops in the United States have recently spoken out against policy changes enacted by the Trump administration this year that put restrictions on asylum and separates children from their families at the U.S./Mexico border. | Cristobella Durrette/The Cougar

Bishops in the United States have spoken out against recent policy changes enacted by the Trump administration that places limitations on asylum and separates children from their families at the US/Mexico border.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops held its annual spring conference June 13 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This meeting came just weeks after Attorney General Jeff sessions issued the zero tolerance immigration policy and just two days after he announced restrictions on immigrants’ ability to receive asylum.

The zero tolerance policy makes illegal entry into the United States a prohibited offense punishable by law, while the restraints on asylum hinder individuals fleeing violence, poverty, and gang-related activity from entering the United States.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB, issued a statement regarding the updates to the U.S. immigration policy.

“At its core, asylum is an instrument to protect the right to life,” DiNardo said. “The decision (to limit asylum) will erode the capacity of asylum to save lives, particularly in cases that involve asylum seekers who are persecuted by private actors. We urge courts and policy makers to respect and enhance, not erode, the potential for our asylum system to preserve and protect the right to life.”

DiNardo also commented on the zero tolerance policy, which allowed for the separation of children from families attempting to cross the U.S./Mexico border.

He condemned this break up of the family unit, stating that “families are the foundational element of society and they must be able to stay together..Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”

Other bishops who spoke at the conference introduced the idea of sending a delegation of bishops to the border to act as a public witness. The concept gained traction and was placed in the hands of the USCCB’s working group on immigration issues.

This idea became a reality when a delegation of bishops took a two-day trip to the McAllen-Brownsville area at the southern border of Texas, according to the Catholic News Service.

This excursion included a trip to the Casa Padre facility, a Walmart-turned-detention center that houses children separated from families and unaccompanied minors who have crossed the border.

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania, who was part of the delegation and visited Casa Padre, stated that while the facility was clean and provided access to medical care, schooling, and recreation, there was a sadness that permeated its inhabitants.

“On too many occasions, our government has taken a posture and established policy which is in principle and in practice hostile to children and families fleeing violence, gangs, and poverty,” said Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley in a statement about border immigration.

“At its core, immigration policy is about people, young and old, alone or in families, often fearful and abandoned. Immigration policy is a moral question that cannot be separated from decisions of what is right and wrong, of justice and injustice. It is about respecting and reverencing the dignity of the human person.”

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