Bishops across U.S. condemn separation, detention of migrant children

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WASHINGTON (CNS) — From Denver to New York City, the country’s Catholic bishops have joined a chorus of organizations, institutions and high-profile individuals urging the Trump administration to stop separating children from their parents as they seek respite in the U.S. from dire conditions in their home countries, largely in Central America.

None have been more outspoken, however, than the bishops with dioceses on or near the border between the U.S. and Mexico, where many migrants, adults as well as children, are being held in detention centers in geographic areas where many of the prelates come into contact with families affected.

Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin said that even though the United States immigration policy is broken and in urgent need of repair, he cannot think of any circumstances that justify separating children from their parents.

“It is a cruel and unnecessary practice and it should stop now,” said Bishop Tobin. “It is truly unfortunate that our political leaders, from all sides, cannot rise above their partisan bickering, to repair our immigration system and take care of the immigrant and refugee families who come to our nation seeking freedom, peace and prosperity.”

In many occasions, Bishop Tobin has spoken out in support of immigrants and refugees in the community, he shared that he will continue to encourage immigration reform.

“It should be a legislative and moral priority for our state and nation. Nor should we forget that for many years the Diocese of Providence has offered a warm welcome to refugees and immigrants who have come to us, and has provided valuable social services to meet their needs.”

On June 14, San Antonio’s Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller said, “Refugee children belong to their parents, not to the government or other institution. To steal children from their parents is a grave sin, immoral (and) evil,” said “Their lives have already been extremely difficult. Why do we (the U.S.) torture them even more, treating them as criminals?” he continued.

In a June 5 interview with CBS News, U.S Attorney General Jeff Sessions said: “If people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them,” meaning they shouldn’t bring them along when trying to cross the border, which many do as they seek asylum. The furor over the separation of children from a parent or parents had already started in late May, before Sessions used a Bible passage to justify the actions.

Bishop Daniel E. Flores of the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, said via Twitter May 31 that “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.”

But the outrage began in earnest after the June 14 speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Indiana, when Sessions said the practice of separating families is consistent with the teachings of the Bible because “persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”

The following day, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said during CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time with Chris Cuomo” that while he appreciated Sessions quoting the Bible, the quote he used was not the best.

“For one, St. Paul always says we should obey the law of the government if that law is in conformity with the Lord’s law, all right? No pun intended but God’s law trumps man’s law, all right?” he said.