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Photo Credit: Ted Soqui | Reuters

Trump's order banning refugees evokes strong opposition, support

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson issued a pastoral statement on immigration and reconciliation during National Migration Week to "reaffirm" his "pastoral commitment to accompany our immigrant and refugee families." 

"As I have done on previous occasions, I call upon the faithful of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the people of good will to join me in solidarity with our immigrant and refugee communities... May our commitment to walk with the immigrant and refugee be a light in the darkness for others to see and follow," the statement reads. 

Read the full statement in English and Spanish here.

WASHINGTON -- As President Donald Trump signed an executive memorandum intended to restrict the entry of terrorists coming to the United States in the guise of refugees, the action brought quick response from Catholic and other religious leaders.

The largest response came from more than 2,000 religious leaders representing the Interfaith Immigration Coalition who objected to the action in a letter to the president and members of Congress. The heads of Catholic charitable agencies, organizations working with immigrants and Catholic education leaders also decried the president's action.

The action also drew supporters, with organizations such as the Heritage Foundation and some Church leaders saying it was necessary to protect the country's security.

Trump signed the memorandum, titled "The Protection of the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States," at a Jan. 27 ceremony at the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes.

Regarding the refugee action, Trump said it was meant to keep "Islamic terrorists out of the United States. We don't want (them) here. We want to make sure they don't enter the country." He added, "The only ones we want to admit into our country are those who will support our county and deeply love our people. We will never forget the lessons of 9/11."

The memorandum suspends the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days and bans entry of all citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries -- Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia -- for 90 days. It also establishes a religious criteria for refugees, proposing to give priority to religious minorities over others who may have equally compelling refugee claims.

The seven countries previously were identified under guidelines established in the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015. The act includes a provision that allows the Department of Homeland Security's to limit Visa Waiver Program travel for certain individuals who have traveled to the seven countries.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement on President Trump's executive order on the U.S. refugee admissions program.Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the USCCB, and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president, issue a joint statement Jan. 30.

"The refugees fleeing from ISIS and other extremists are sacrificing all they have in the name of peace and
freedom," the bishops stated. "Our nation should welcome them as allies in a common fight against evil. We must screen vigilantly for infiltrators who would do us harm, but we must always be equally vigilant in our welcome of friends."

Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austing, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration, stated: "We strongly disagree with the Executive Order's halting refugee admissions. We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope. We will continue to engage the new administration, as we have all administrations for the duration of the current refugee program, now almost forty years. We will work vigorously to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed in collaboration with Catholic Charities without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans, and to ensure that families may be reunified with their loved ones." 

The letter from the religious leaders representing the Interfaith Immigration Coalition stated the U.S. has an "urgent moral responsibility to receive refugees and asylum seekers who are in dire need of safety." The correspondence called on elected officials to "be bold in choosing moral, just policies that provide refuge for vulnerable individuals seeking protection."

The leaders also insisted that the U.S. refugee resettlement program remain open to all nationalities and religions that face persecution. They decried "derogatory language" about Middle Eastern refugees and Muslims in particular, adding that refugees "are an asset to this country," serving as "powerful ambassadors of the American dream and our nation's founding principles of equal opportunity, religious freedom and liberty and justice for all."

Among Catholics signing the letter were Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Conn.; Jesuit Father Timothy P. Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States; Mercy Sister Patricia McDermott, president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas; and Sister Ellen Kelly, congregational leader of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore called for prayer as the country responds to the series of immigration- related memorandum signed by the president since Jan. 20. He specifically cited the need for prayers for the nation's leaders and "the people who call this country their home, including our immigrant sisters and brothers."

"While we affirm the right of sovereign nations to control their borders, we likewise affirm our moral responsibility to respect every human being's dignity. We must remember that those fleeing horrendous and unspeakable violence and grinding poverty have the right, as children of God, to provide for the basic needs of themselves and their families," Archbishop Lori wrote in a Jan. 30 open letter to Catholics in the archdiocese.

Soon after Trump signed the memorandum, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, who is Catholic, commended the action, saying "our number one responsibility is to protect the homeland."

"We are a compassionate nation, and I support the refugee resettlement program, but it's time to re-evaluate and strengthen the visa vetting process. President Trump is right to make sure we are doing everything possible to know exactly who is entering our country," Ryan said.

Officials with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. said the memorandum erodes the U.S. commitment to protect refugees, weakens national security and harms the country's standing in the international community.

"Refugees have enriched our society in countless ways. These newcomers seek protection and the promise of equality, opportunity and liberty that has made our country thrive. When we reject refugees, we negate the welcome that was given to so many of our ancestors," Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Orange, Calif., chairman of CLINIC's board of directors.

Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, writing on his blog Jan. 27, raised the 40-year-long concern of the U.S. bishops of the need for comprehensive immigration reform. He wrote that the status of 11 million people who are in the U.S. without documents must be addressed with compassion and with respect for the country's laws.

"The Catholic voice in the immigration debate calls for reform based on reason, compassion and mercy for those fleeing violence and persecution," the blog post said. "At a pastoral level, in our country and in the Archdiocese of Boston, the Church must be a community which provides pastoral care, legal advice and social services to refugees and immigrants, as we have done in this archdiocese for more than one hundred years. We will continue this important work through our parishes, Catholic Charities and our Catholic schools.

"Our country has the opportunity to respond to the reality of immigration with policies and practices which reflect our deepest religious and social principles. Together let us make the commitment to be a beacon of light and hope for those who look to us in their time of need," Cardinal O'Malley said.


Members of Congress lined up primarily along political lines, with Democrats opposing the measures and most Republicans supporting them. About 20 Republicans voiced reservations about portions of the action, with some describing its potential to inspire terrorists overseas and its need to have been vetted more widely before implementation. 


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