Bishop Tobin: President Trump’s order not a compassionate step toward immigration reform

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PROVIDENCE — Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has joined a growing chorus of U.S. bishops who continue to express their reactions to President Donald Trump’s January 27 executive order which severely suspends the full U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days and bans the entry of all citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries for a 90-day period.

The president’s order also suggests a religious criteria for the future resettlement of refugees, one which favors the entry of religious minorities, especially persecuted Christians, over other categories of refugees.

Although Seattle federal Judge James Robart blocked the executive order on immigration February 3 by issuing a temporary restraining order, the Department of Justice has filed an appeal to overturn Robart’s decision.

Bishop Tobin said in a statement issued February 2 that he has “consistently and strongly supported” the call of his fellow U.S. bishops for immigration reform that is comprehensive and compassionate.

“President Trump’s recent executive orders about immigrants and refugees do not move us toward that goal,” Bishop Tobin said. “The executive orders were ill-timed and poorly communicated; they caused widespread confusion and division. They have created a damaging pothole on the road to secure refugee resettlement and meaningful immigration reform.”

The 90-day-ban seeks to prevent travelers from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen — including those holding U.S. green cards — from entering the U.S. Following Trump’s election in November, Bishop Tobin offered his prayerful support for immigrants and refugees who have settled in Rhode Island. He noted then that the Catholic Church would continue to be a welcoming community and offer material, pastoral and spiritual care to all, with a special focus on those in need.

“I continue to repeat those words today, and I again commit the Diocese of Providence to welcoming and working with immigrants and refugees who come to us looking for safety and security, and to make a new beginning for themselves and their families. To do so is an expression of our faith and is fully consistent with our national heritage,” he said in his statement.

On January 30, the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called upon all the Catholic faithful to join us in uniting with all who speak in defense of human dignity.

“The bond between Christians and Muslims is founded on the unbreakable strength of charity and justice,” Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB vice president, said in a joint statement.

“The church will not waiver in her defense of our sisters and brothers of all faiths who suffer at the hands of merciless persecutors,” they said.

“The refugees fleeing from ISIS (Islamic State) and other extremists are sacrificing all they have in the name of peace and freedom,” they said. “Often, they could be spared if only they surrendered to the violent vision of their tormentors. They stand firm in their faith.”

Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration, expressed his disagreement with the president’s order halting refugee admissions.

“We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope,” he said in a statement.

“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.”

Regarding the Executive Order’s ban on Syrian refugees, the prioritization of religious minorities suffering from religious persecution, Bishop Vásquez noted that the United States has long provided leadership in resettling refugees.

“We believe in assisting all those who are vulnerable and fleeing persecution, regardless of their religion. This includes Christians, as well as Yazidis and Shia Muslims from Syria, Rohingyas from Burma, and other religious minorities,” he said.

“However, we need to protect all our brothers and sisters of all faiths, including Muslims, who have lost family, home, and country. They are children of God and are entitled to be treated with human dignity. We believe that by helping to resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith as Jesus has challenged us to do.”