Insights: Border Chaos Reactions; DACA and Compassionate Laws

Search for “Better Way” during Border Chaos

The Trump Administration, after days of saying it had no choice, reversed its policy of forcefully separating families at the border.   Massive public outrage, accompanied by the voices of religious leaders and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, forced the President on Wednesday to alter his policy even though significant questions about what happens now remain unanswered.

In addition to separating families at the border, Attorney General Jeff Sessions also announced that the United States would no longer accept asylum applications for those fleeing domestic or gang violence

The combination of restrictions lead to swift reaction:

“At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  “The Attorney General’s recent decision elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection…Unless overturned, the decision will erode the capacity of asylum to save lives.”

That was last week.  This week, images of school-age children separated from families – provided by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – hit the public hard.  No video of toddlers, placed in what the federal government calls “tender-age” centers, was offered but that did not stop the growing outrage.  It was also learned that children taken from their parents at the border have been sent as far away as New York and Wisconsin.

“We are now a nation where “zero tolerance” means no mercy,” wrote Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles. “We seem proud to announce that we will no longer grant asylum to victims of domestic abuse and gang violence. In the name of protecting our borders, we are willing to break up families and shatter the lives of innocent children.”

Other California Bishops also offered statements including Bishop Patrick McGrath (San Jose), Bishop Gerald Barnes (San Bernardino), Bishop Jaime Soto (Sacramento) and Bishop Armando Ochoa (Fresno).

The President’s alteration of his policy created more questions.  For instance, DHS said it has no plans to try to unify the more than 2,300 children already taken from their parents.  (DHS offered these instructions for finding children.) The Executive Order says that families will be detained together but a previous Federal court order limits that to 20 days maximum.  Pressed to handle all the legal proceeding stemming from its policy, the Administration is now bringing in attorneys from the military’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, untrained in immigration law to handle prosecutions.  Finally, facilities for keeping families together may be hard to locate.

“We will be watching to see whether the administration follows the law concerning how long it may keep families in detention,” said Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC).  Under a court order and settlement agreement in the Flores v. Reno case, which governs care for juveniles in immigration detention, minors being held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement must be released after 20 days.  An executive order cannot supersede a court order.

Archbishop Gomez welcomed the change in policy but urged Congress to act on immigration reform.  However, the U.S. House is stymied.

One immigration bill, proposed by immigration opponents and even sought to reduce legal immigration, failed.  The vote on a “compromise” bill crafted by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) and other members of leadership was postponed because it did not have the necessary votes to pass.  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops supported neither bill.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter as we track developments on this continuing story.


DACA and the Compassionate Rule of Law

One of the more common issues brought up in the immigration debate relates to the “rule of law.”  Gráinne McEvoy, an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at Trinity College, Dublin, examines the concept, especially in light of the ongoing DACA debate. She is currently writing a book on American Catholic social thought and immigration policy in the 20th century.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has been the subject of much discussion, by politicians, policy experts, academics, journalists and others, since it was announced in June 2012 by President Barack Obama. While critics of the program have warned of it as an exercise in executive overreach and a violation of the rule of law, its supporters have defended it as a reasonable, compassionate concession, one that enjoys overwhelming public support, until lawmakers find a more permanent solution.  

DACA provides work permits and temporary protection from deportation to some of those members of the undocumented population who were brought to the United States as children, a group also known as DREAMers. The program requires that its recipients were under 30 years of age by June 2012, had arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday, have been resident since 2007, attending school, enrolled in college or honorably discharged from military service, and have not been convicted of a felony or other serious crime.

DACA-eligible are therefore a specific, narrow and, perhaps most importantly, very sympathetic group. By September 2017, almost 800,000 of an estimated 1.7 million eligible individuals had presented themselves to the government, paid a $465 application fee, and been approved for protection, for a two-year term, under the DACA program. 

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Stop SB 320 in the Assembly Higher Ed Committee

The bill by Assemblymember Leyva (D-Chino Hills) that would require that chemical abortions be available at all University of California and California State University Campuses will next be heard in the Assembly Committee on Higher Education.

This bill has already cleared several hurdles, and lawmakers must hear from you now before it’s allowed to move forward.

If this bill is allowed to pass, the impacts will be devastating. Not only will “non-surgical abortion services” be mandated at California’s public universities, but also a clear goal of the bill is to remove the stigmatization of abortion in general.

Act now before lawmakers vote on this controversial bill.


The Question Beyond the Question

By Bishop Robert Barron  - On the afternoon of June 14, a rather spirited, fascinating, and unexpected debate broke out on the floor of the USCCB spring meeting in Ft. Lauderdale. At issue was the possibility of reconsidering “Faithful Citizenship,” the 2007 statement of the US Bishops on the formation of conscience regarding matters political.

A group of bishops, including myself, had proposed that instead of producing another lengthy document to succeed “Faithful Citizenship,” the bishops ought to write a brief and pointed letter on the political challenges of the present moment and then to create a video or a series of videos bringing forth the salient points of Catholic social teaching. Our thinking was motivated by recent research, which indicates that a very small percentage of Catholics actually read that formal statement from ten years ago. Though it had been taken in and appreciated by the bishops themselves, by lobbyists and political activists, and by members of the Catholic commentariat, it was largely ignored by the very people we were endeavoring to reach.

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Holiness in this World of Imposters

In an excerpt from Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete Et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad) on the Call to Holiness in Today’s World, the Holy Father implores us to seek the truth in this world that holds many imposters.

“There can be any number of theories about what constitutes holiness, with various explanations and distinctions. Such reflection may be useful, but nothing is more enlightening than turning to Jesus’ words and seeing his way of teaching the truth. Jesus explained with great simplicity what it means to be holy when he gave us the Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3-12; Lk 6:20-23).

The Beatitudes are like a Christian’s identity card. So if anyone asks: “What must one do to be a good Christian?” the answer is clear. We have to do, each in our own way, what Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount. In the Beatitudes, we find a portrait of the Master, which we are called to reflect in our daily lives.” 

June 22, 2018

Vol. 11, No. 23


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