Bishop Daniel Flores and Bishop Joe Vásquez of Texas are telling the world even on Twitter they are against the Trump administration’s move to separate undocumented parents and their children at the border.
Bishop Flores tweeted on May 31:
Separating immigrant parents and children as a supposed deterrent to immigration is a cruel and reprehensible policy. Children are not instruments of deterrence, they are children. A government that thinks any means is suitable to achieve an end cannot secure justice for anyone.
The Trump administration denied for months that there was no formal policy separating families at the border. Their story fell apart and finally they had to come clean that they were separating parents from their children as a deterrent to keep other immigrants from coming to the U.S. illegally.
Read a good background piece by Jonathon Blitzer in The New Yorker. In “How the Trump Administration Got Comfortable Separating Immigrant Kids from Their Parents,” Blitzer writes:
On April 6th, Jeff Sessions and Kirstjen Nielsen, the head of Homeland Security, announced a zero-tolerance policy for immigrants at the border. Anyone who didn’t cross the U.S. border at an official port of entry would be criminally prosecuted, even if they were seeking asylum, and those travelling with their children would be separated from them. The policy was now official, and the Administration acknowledged its rationale: it was separating families to discourage others from travelling to the United States illegally
What was the policy before? Politifacts reports:
Before the Trump administration, immigrants entering illegally as families were rarely prosecuted, said Sarah Pierce, an associate policy analyst of the U.S. Immigration Program at the Migration Policy Institute. Instead, immigrants were held in family detention centers until they were sent to appear before an immigration court or deported.
Bishop Joe Vásquez, the Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, issued a statement on June 1:
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.
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.
My brother bishops and I 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. Any policies should address these factors first as we seek to repair our broken immigration system.
The New Yorker reports that according to the Department of Homeland Security, 658 children were separated from their parents between May 6th and May 19th.
Other stories of interest:
Houston Chronicle: Immigrant Families Separated at Border Struggle to Find Each Other