U.S. bishops take on immigration, racism at fall assembly

By Carol Zimmermann (CNS)
BALTIMORE – At the start of their annual fall assembly in Baltimore Nov. 13, U.S. Catholic bishops faced some big issues – immigration and racism – straight on and zeroed in on how to raise the national level of discussion on these topics starting in the church pews. Bishop Joseph Kopacz attended the meeting and his reflection is on page 3.
They acknowledged the current polarization in the country and divides within the Catholic Church and stressed their responsibility as church leaders to promote immigration reform, educate parishioners on justice issues and listen to those affected by “sins of racism.”
On immigration, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, who is chairman of the Committee on Migration of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said there needs to be a “path to legalization and citizenship for the millions of our unauthorized brothers and sisters who are law-abiding, tax-paying and contributing to our society.”
The bishops responded with applause and an agreement by voice vote to issue a statement calling for comprehensive immigration reform.
The bishops were keenly aware that their defense of immigrants was not necessarily the view of the U.S. church at large. For example, Chicago Bishop Blase J. Cupich spoke of dangers of Catholics falling prey to and believing “poisoning rhetoric” about immigrants that demonizes them.
“There’s something wrong in our churches, where the Gospel is proclaimed, and yet people leave our worship services, our Masses on weekends, with that rhetoric still echoing in their hearts,” he said.
Several bishops also brought up the notion of prudential judgment – referring to the view Catholics could take on immigration that differs from the bishops – since it is not a specific matter of church teaching.
The bishops who spoke on the floor didn’t buy that argument and said Catholics can’t use it to push aside the need to care for immigrants. Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco took this a step further saying prudential judgment can’t be “taken lightly” on a “justice issue like immigration.”
Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami said the bishops’ defense of immigrants, as brothers and sisters, not problems, is not only right for immigrants but “for our society as a whole.”
“We can make America great, but you don’t make America great by making America mean,” he added, referring to a slogan of President Donald Trump without naming him.
On racism, Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, head of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, said the church must recognize “and frankly acknowledge” its failings. He said the issue has found a “troubling resurgence” in recent years, referring particularly to white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, this year where he said racial hatred was “on full display.”
“Racism isn’t going to be conquered by speech but by actions,” said Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, adding that this was a watershed moment where the church could play a leadership role.
He spoke about discussions happening at diocesan and parish levels, and several bishops commented about them as well noting that these discussions are not easy, but so necessary to bring about healing.
Other key issues of the day where church leaders are responding include health care, taxes and abortion, mentioned by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston in his first address as USCCB president. He took office at the close of last year’s fall assembly.
“We are facing a time that seems more divided than ever,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “Divisions over health care, conscience protections, immigration and refugees, abortion, physician-assisted suicide, gender ideologies, the meaning of marriage and all the other headlines continue to be hotly debated. But our role continues to be witnessing the Gospel.”
He explained that the National Catholic War Council, created by the U.S. bishops in 1917 in the response to the world refugee crisis that emerged from World War I and the forerunner to the USCCB, was formed to address great national and international needs at a time not unlike today.
The cardinal emphasized other modern challenges such as recent natural disasters and mass shootings.
But the problems of the day should not overwhelm church leaders who should recognize signs of new hope in the church, mentioned by the papal nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who addressed the bishops at the start of the meeting and encouraged them to make time for prayer amid “burdens of the office.”
He told them to be adventurous in the “new frontier of faith” and to make a strong effort to accompany young people who often question their faith.
The bishops also heard from the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, at a Nov. 12 Mass where he was the main celebrant and the homilist, and at a dinner celebrating the USCCB’s 100th anniversary.
The cardinal told the U.S. bishops that the church needs them today to “bring not only material assistance but also the spiritual balm of healing, comfort and hope to new waves of migrants and refugees who come knocking on America’s door.”
He also urged them to follow the pope’s call to accompany the modern church.
Prior to the Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a few protesters held placards or placed them on the sidewalk, calling on the U.S. bishops to embrace pacifism.
Also in the lobby of the hotel where the bishops were meeting, a protester sought dialogue with church leaders to urge them to offer sanctuary to immigrants facing deportation, and another voiced displeasure with church leaders he said support war.
The second public day of meetings did not tackle major societal issues but examined ways the bishops can continue to uphold the Catholic faith from specific wording in the baptismal rite, a review of catechetical materials and a pastoral plan for marriage and family life that will give Catholic couples and families resources to enable them to live out their vocation.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, delivers the homily during Mass Nov. 12 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore on the eve of the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

As part of the business side of the meeting the bishops elected Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit as the next secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He’ll take office next November. Votes also were cast for a new chairman of the bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty and chairmen-elect for the committees on Communications, Cultural Diversity in the Church, Doctrine, National Collections and Pro-Life Activities.
They highlighted past events such as the Convocation of Catholic Leaders in Orlando, Florida, this summer and previewed upcoming events such as the U.S. Catholic Church’s Fifth National Encuentro, or “V Encuentro,” next September in Grapevine, Texas, and World Youth Day Jan. 22-27, 2019, in Panama City, Panama.
The bishops identified key issues they are addressing with Congress including health care, the federal budget and tax reform, and concluded their assembly by mentioning the impact of recent disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires.
Bishop Curtis J. Guillory of Beaumont, Texas, a region hard hit by Hurricane Harvey, said often when tragedies occur “you just feel very much alone and wonder how you are going to move forward.”
He thanked the bishops for their support, in prayers, phone calls and donations, which he described as a “wonderful sign of solidarity” and sign of unity of our faith. This will be a long and costly recovery, he noted, but added that “people have deep, deep faith.”
(Contributing to this story was Rhina Guidos, Dennis Sadowski, Mark Pattison and Julie Asher. Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.)

Trump promete seguir luchando por la prohibición de viajar bloqueada

Por Andy Telli y Theresa Laurence
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (CNS) – El presidente Donald Trump, durante una manifestación de campaña en Nashville, prometió luchar contra la última sentencia judicial bloqueando su orden ejecutiva suspendiendo temporalmente la inmigración de seis países de mayoría musulmana y el reasentamiento de refugiados hasta la Corte Suprema .
“Vamos a luchar contra este fallo terrible”, dijo el presidente a una multitud de simpatizantes en el Auditorio Municipal de Nashville el 15 de marzo. “El peligro es claro, la ley es clara y la necesidad de mi orden ejecutiva es clara”.
Antes de la manifestación, el presidente visitó Hermitage, el hogar del presidente Andrew Jackson, y colocó una corona de flores en su tumba en honor al 250 aniversario del cumpleaños del séptimo presidente.
Más temprano en el día, el juez Derrick Watson de Hawaii emitió una orden de restricción temporal contra la prohibición de viajar de Trump. En su orden, el juez dictaminó que el gobierno no había demostrado que la prohibición era necesaria para proteger al país de los terroristas que trataban de infiltrarse en el país a través de la inmigración legal o el programa de refugiados.
La prohibición de viajar habría prohibido a los ciudadanos de Irán, Libia, Somalia, Sudán y Siria entrar a los Estados Unidos durante 90 días y todos los refugiados durante 120 días. Fue el segundo intento de la administración Trump de implementar una prohibición de viajar. Después de que la primera orden fue bloqueada por un juez, Trump emitió una nueva orden que eliminó a Irak de la lista de países.
El orden nuevo fue bloqueado por un segundo juez federal. El juez del distrito estadounidense, Theodore Chuang, de Maryland, dictaminó que la orden de Trump estaba destinada a prohibir a los musulmanes y por lo tanto violó la Primera Enmienda.

El presidente estadounidense Donald Trump firma una orden ejecutiva revisada para una prohibición de viajar a Estados Unidos el 6 de marzo en el Pentágono en Arlington, Virginia. La orden ejecutiva prohíbe temporalmente a los refugiados de ciertos países musulmanes mayoritarios y ahora excluye a Irak. (Foto del CNS / Carlos Barria, Reuters)

El presidente estadounidense Donald Trump firma una orden ejecutiva revisada para una prohibición de viajar a Estados Unidos el 6 de marzo en el Pentágono en Arlington, Virginia. La orden ejecutiva prohíbe temporalmente a los refugiados de ciertos países musulmanes mayoritarios y ahora excluye a Irak. (Foto del CNS / Carlos Barria, Reuters)

El 16 de marzo en Washington, el secretario de prensa de la Casa Blanca, Sean Spicer, confirmó los planes de la administración Trump de apelar las sentencias de los dos jueces.
Durante el manifestación de Nashville, el presidente dijo que su administración está “trabajando noche y día para mantener a nuestra nación a salvo del terrorismo … Por esta razón, emitió una orden ejecutiva para suspender temporalmente la inmigración de lugares que no puede ocurrir con seguridad”.
“El mejor modo de evitar que los terroristas islámicos radicales ataquen nuestro país es impedirles que vayan a nuestro país en primer lugar”, dijo Trump. “Esta decisión nos hace parecer débiles, lo que ya no somos”.
La prohibición de viajar fue uno de varios temas que el presidente abordó en su discurso, que abordó una amplia gama de temas y fue muy similar al estilo de sus manifestaciones de campaña durante la campaña presidencial de 2016.
El presidente alineó su agenda con la de Jackson. “Él entendió que el liderazgo real significa poner a Estados Unidos primero”.
“Hemos estado poniendo mucha nuestra agenda de America First en acción”, dijo Trump. “Acabamos de empezar, espera hasta que veas lo que viene, amigos.”
Antes de que se anunciara la decisión sobre la prohibición de viajar, se esperaba que el presidente hablara en apoyo de la Ley Americana de Cuidado de la Salud, el proyecto de ley republicano que derogaría y reemplazaría la Ley del Cuidado de Salud a Bajo Precio, conocida como Obamacare. Pero fue casi 30 minutos en el discurso antes de que Trump trajo la revocación de los republicanos y reemplazar el esfuerzo.
A principios de la semana, la Oficina de Presupuesto del Congreso publicó su análisis del proyecto de ley, que proyectaba que el proyecto de ley reduciría el déficit federal en 337.000 millones de dólares en 10 años, pero dejaría 24 millones menos de personas cubiertas por el seguro de salud para 2026. Eliminar el mandato individual que obliga a las personas a comprar un seguro de salud o pagar una multa de impuestos y también poner fin a la expansión del programa de Medicaid bajo la Ley de Cuidado de Salud a Bajo Precio.
Los cambios en el programa de Medicaid en virtud de la Ley de Atención de Salud estadounidense daría lugar a 14 millones de personas más sin seguro, de acuerdo con la oficina de presupuesto.
A pesar del feroz debate sobre el proyecto de ley entre los republicanos en el Congreso, el presidente predijo que pasaría. “Y luego vamos a la reducción de impuestos, que me gusta.”
Trump abordó varias otras áreas de su agenda, incluyendo la reducción de las regulaciones gubernamentales sobre las empresas, recortar el presupuesto, aumentar el gasto en defensa, sacar a Estados Unidos de varios acuerdos comerciales y construir un muro a lo largo de la frontera sur del país.
La aparición en el Auditorio Municipal fue organizada y pagada por la campaña presidencial de reelección, que se lanzó a mediados de febrero.
Mientras el presidente hablaba dentro del Auditorio Municipal, miles de manifestantes salieron a las calles del centro de Nashville para defender causas en las que creían, incluyendo acceso a servicios de salud, derechos de inmigrantes y refugiados, derechos de los trabajadores y más.
Junto con anarquistas vestidos de negro, los partidarios de Planned Parenthood en sombreros de color rosa brillante y Y de otros manifestantes de Trump, la gente de fe estaba en la mano protestando las políticas de Trump. Bobbi Negron estaba allí con su esposo y niño pequeño. Es profesora en la Academia St. Bernard en Nashville y cofundadora de Workers ‘Dignity, una organización sin fines de lucro que ayuda a trabajadores de bajos salarios, muchos de los cuales son latinos, a enfrentarse al robo de salarios ya los abusos en el lugar de trabajo. “Estamos aquí porque nuestros vecinos y amigos viven con miedo, no saben si serán recogidos y deportados”, dijo al diario Tennessee Register, diario de la diócesis de Nashville. Como puertorriqueña, Negron dijo que sentía que era su deber resistir a los inmigrantes, especialmente a los musulmanes y los que estaban en el país sin documentos, que se sienten especialmente apuntados en este momento. “Practicamos lo que creemos”, dijo. Tienes que salir y aparecer. – – – Telli es redactora y Laurence es escritora del Tennessee Register, diario de la Diócesis de Nashville

Trump signs new executive order on refugees, excludes Iraq from ban

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – President Donald Trump’s new executive order temporarily banning refugees from certain majority-Muslim countries, signed March 6, now excludes Iraq from the ban.
Iraq had been one of seven nations in the original order, issued Jan. 27 but the implementation of which was blocked in the courts. The new order will not take effect until March 16.
Citizens of four of the countries still part of the ban – Iran, Libya, Somalia and Syria – will be subject to a 90-day suspension of visa processing. This information was given to Congress the week prior to the new executive order. The other two countries that remain part of the ban are Sudan and Yemen.
Lawful permanent residents – green card holders – are excluded from any travel ban.
While the revised executive order is intended to survive judicial scrutiny, those opposed to it have declared plans to mobilize their constituencies to block it. Church World Service and the National Council of Churches announced March 2, that they will unveil a new grass-roots ecumenical initiative in support of refugees.
Catholic immigration advocates were on tenterhooks waiting for the revised executive order, the issuance of which had been long promised but slow in coming.
Bill O’Keefe, vice president for government relations and advocacy at Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ international aid agency, told Catholic News Service that he had seen communications from “senior White House officials” that would retain the ban, but indicated the indefinite ban on Syrians would be lifted.
Religious preferences found in the would be original order would be erased, but green-card holders would be exempt from the ban. O’Keefe said. The halt of refugee admissions to “determine additional security vetting procedures” would stay in place, he added, and the number of refugee admissions would be cut for the 2017 fiscal year, which runs through Sept. 30, from 110,000 to 50,000; an estimated 35,000 have already been admitted since October, according to O’Keefe.
“Some will argue that simply sectioning out the seven Muslim-majority countries is a form of religious discrimination,” O’Keefe said. “What is clear here is that’s it’s within the prerogative of the president to lower the threshold of refugee admissions.”
One effect of the order would be to further strain the refugee-processing system at its biggest point. “The bulk of the system and the biggest part of it are those countries like Lebanon, Turkey, which are taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees,” O’Keefe said. “When we don’t do our part, it’s tough for us to tell other countries to make the sacrifices we need to play their part. The risk of the system collapsing and of governments that are already strained not being willing to keep their doors open is very serious, and we’re very worried about that.”
In Syria, he added, “some people have been (refugees there) for five, six years. They’ve had the hope of resettlement in the United States as one of the things that keeps them going.”
Kim Pozniak, CRS’ communications director, spent a week in mid-February in Amman, Jordan, where untold thousands of refugees are living – two and three families at a time – in small apartments in the city.
“I’ve met with people that are worse off than they were three years ago (when she last visited), simply because they’ve started losing hope,” Pozniak told CNS. “One woman, for example, said they’re so bad off they’re considering moving back to Syria.” Pozniak said the woman’s sister, who still lives in Syria, told her “Look, even if it’s so bad that you have to eat dirt, don’t come back here.”
Even without a ban, the uncertainty can eat away at people, Pozniak said. “I talked with one 74-year-old woman who together with her son has been in the resettlement process in the United States. They had the interview with UN (High Commissioner for Refugees), the interview with the Embassy, had the iris scan taken, now they have no idea when they’ll be resettled. They’re never given an answer as to when, where, how, and that’s the really frustrating part – being in limbo and not knowing where you’re going to be next.”
A Pew Research Center poll released Feb. 27 found Catholics opposing the ban, 62 percent-36 percent. White Catholics were very narrowly in favor, 50 percent-49 percent, while Hispanic and other minority Catholics opposed the ban 81 percent-14 percent.
Members of black Protestant churches (81 percent) and religiously unaffiliated Americans (74 percent) also opposed the ban. Protestants overall supported the ban, 51 percent-46 percent, with 76 percent support from white evangelicals. The Pew survey interviewed 1,503 adults by phone Feb. 7-12.
(Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.)

Immigrant – detained after public appearance faces unclear future

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Pastors, attorneys, immigrants and immigrants’ advocates gathered at City Hall Wednesday, March 1, to express their concerns about recent immigration raids, seek dialogue with law enforcement representatives and invite the community at large to attend a forum to discuss the contributions immigrants make to Mississippi.
Immediately after the news conference, one of the immigrants who spoke at it was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

Daniela Vargas speaks at a press conference on the steps of the Jackson City Hall. Vargas spoke as a DACA recipient whose father and brother face possible deportation. Immediately after the news conference, federal officers took her into custody. (Photo by Tereza Ma.)

Daniela Vargas speaks at a press conference on the steps of the Jackson City Hall. Vargas spoke as a DACA recipient whose father and brother face possible deportation. Immediately after the news conference, federal officers took her into custody. (Photo by Tereza Ma.)

Daniela Vargas is a 22-year-old Argentine native, but America is the only home she has ever known. She was covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but those applications have to be renewed every two years. She reapplied late because she had trouble getting together the money for the application, so her coverage had lapsed. The car in which she was riding was pulled over by federal agents as she left.
This was not her first run-in with ICE. Agents arrested her father and brother at her home earlier this year while she hid in a closet. ICE agents eventually raided the house and detained her for a short time, but released her when she indicated that she had reapplied for DACA. Her father and brother are awaiting deportation hearings.
“When I was seven-years-old my parents sacrificed everything they had ever known to bring my brother and I into the country to establish a better lifestyle. Both my parents began working in poultry plants where most days the cold was unbearable,” she said at the news conference. “Knowing that they were making this sacrifice for us, I put in all my efforts into my education and my talents. I dream of being a university math professor, but now I am not so sure my dream will develop,” Vargas added.
Nathan Elmore represents Vargas. He said her case is a complicated one, but he knows ICE has discretion in its cases and he hopes agents will exercise it. Vargas, he pointed out, does not fall under the ‘priority deportations’ outlined by the Trump administration. She has no criminal record, she is eligible for a DACA renewal and she was not committing a crime when she was picked up.
Bishop Joseph Kopacz wrote a letter in support of Vargas saying, “Some have expressed grave concern at every level of government and society that DACA recipients may be especially vulnerable in the transition from one administration to the next, but President Trump has stated that he will honor the status of all DACA recipients. I would hope that local branches of our Immigration and Customs Service will uphold the letter and spirit of the law with respect to the legal status of DACA recipients.”
ICE executed a series of raids in the state Wednesday, Feb. 22, detaining 55 people, according to the Clarion-Ledger. The raids targeted Asian restaurants in Jackson, Flowood, Pearl and Meridian and officials said they were the result of a yearlong investigation and not part of any new effort to round up undocumented immigrants.
Elmore is also representing some of the people being detained in the restaurant raids. He said he has been searching the court database to find out if his clients have been charged or appeared before a judge, but even a week after the raid, he can find no record of them anywhere.
Elmore said the current atmosphere in the immigrant community is one of fear, especially among families with children. “This weekend me and several members of my law firm went to Morton, Mississippi, where we did an outreach event where we talked to people just like Daniela. These folks were scared. They’re worried that ‘what if I get picked up, who’s going to take care of my child?’ That was the number one question that we faced as we talked to these people … and that’s a hard question for me to answer for them,” he said.

Amelia McGowan, attorney for the Catholic Charities

Amelia McGowan, attorney for the Catholic Charities

Amelia McGowan, attorney for the Catholic Charities Migrant Resource Center, echoed that sentiment. “Often a topic that goes undiscussed (is that) many immigrants who come to the United States – documented or undocumented – do have U.S. citizen children, or perhaps who are not citizens, but who have lived their entire lives here in the United States. Forced immigration raids not only puts the children in immediate danger of potentially removing their parents, removing their caregivers from the United States, but it also places them in a constant state of fear, which can re-traumatize them if they have suffered a traumatic past from their home countries,” said McGowan.
Redemptorist Father Michael McAndrew agrees. He has been advocating for immigrant families across the U.S. for almost three decades. Today, he is part of a Redemptorist community in Greenwood, Miss., serving the Hispanic community throughout the Mississippi Delta. He pointed out that deportation is more complicated than it may seem when children are involved.
“Of course, immigration law states that citizen children can remain in this country, but the rights of children must protect more than just the children’s right to be here. A more important right of the child is to be raised by his or her parents when their parents are not abusive or doing harm to them,” said Father McAndrew.
The last speaker, Jim Evans, president of the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance (MIRA), brought the gospel to bear in his challenge to state leaders and members of the faith community. “The gospel of Jesus Christ speaks to these suffering in our midst – not as who they are but as who we are and how we attend to them don’t establish who they are, but it makes it clear and reveals who we are,” he said.
The news conference was organized by the Latin American Business Association, ONE Church and MIRA. The group still hopes to host a community forum to showcase the contributions immigrants make to Mississippi and open a dialogue with local law enforcement departments. The forum is set for Tuesday, April 11, at 6 p.m., at Fondren Church on State Street in Jackson.

Bishop, advocates oppose sanctuary cities bill

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – A bill that would keep agencies, cities and college campuses in Mississippi from offering sanctuary to unauthorized immigrants would not keep communities safe and goes against the Christian tenet of caring for those in need, said Bishop Joseph Kopacz of Jackson.
He issued a statement Feb. 15 opposing S.B. 2710, also known as the “sanctuary cities” bill, which passed the state Senate in a 32-16 vote Feb. 9. The bill goes to the state House for consideration.
The measure would prohibit cities and institutions of higher learning from declaring themselves sanctuary cities. There are currently no sanctuary cities in the state, although the city of Jackson proposed such a declaration last year.
“As Christians we are called to welcome the stranger and care for those in need. As citizens, we are called to keep our communities strong and safe. We feel that the so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ bill being debated right now in the Mississippi Legislature damages both of those efforts,” wrote Bishop Kopacz.
In a sanctuary city, local law enforcement would not be forced to act as federal immigration agents, like the officers of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In fact, they would be prohibited from asking a person they detained about his or her immigration status. S.B. 2710 would prohibit cities from enacting sanctuary policies.
The bill’s opening statement says it would apply to entities such as “a state agency, department, political subdivision of this state, county, municipality, university, college, community college or junior college, or any agent, employee or officer thereof.”
Immigrant advocates said the bill raises several concerns.
Amelia McGowan, an immigration attorney for the Catholic Charities Migrant Resource Center based in Jackson, said the vague language, especially in relation to schools, opens up a number of potential problems.
“The first provision is potentially extremely dangerous. It could allow any state official, or anyone working for the state government to report any individual to federal immigration authorities. In other words, it prevents the state and local agencies from prohibiting its employees from reporting an individual to ICE,” said McGowan in an email to the Mississippi Catholic, newspaper of the Jackson Diocese.
“That means, undocumented – or suspected undocumented – individuals seeking services in any state or local agency – courts, police protection, K-12 education, higher education, state hospital, state health and mental health agencies – could be reported to ICE by a disgruntled employee,” McGowan explained.
It also means an agency “could not prohibit its employees from doing so,” she continued. “Now, presumably that person may be protected in some cases by privacy laws, but I am afraid that this provision would prevent individuals from seeking state services, which include reporting violent crimes to the police.”
According to Christy Williams, an attorney at the headquarters of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, known as CLINIC, in Silver Spring, Maryland, the provision also opens up municipalities to potential liability. A school employee who discloses a student’s immigration information could be violating federal privacy laws and the school could be held liable.
If any officer reports a person they suspect is in the country without legal permission but that person turns out to have a valid legal status, the local agency can be sued. CLINIC highlighted one example from Allentown, Pennsylvania, when officers arrested a U.S. citizen for alleged drug crimes.
“He had both his driver’s license and Social Security card with him at the time of the arrest and was eventually found innocent,” according to a CLINIC document about sanctuary cities. “During his time in custody, the police called ICE based on the presumption that, because of his race, he was undocumented.
“Despite being documented, the citizen was held for three days after posting bail based on an ICE detainer. He was released only after an ICE agent interrogated him and confirmed his citizenship. The U.S. citizen sued local and county officials in 3rd District Federal Court, leading to verdicts in his favor and settlement costs totaling nearly $150,000,” the document said.
When a local agency reports someone to ICE, the federal agents may ask the local agency to detain the suspect. The local agency has to absorb the cost of housing, feeding and caring for the person until ICE can process the case. That money is rarely reimbursed to state and local agencies.
Critics of the Mississippi bill say that because it is vague, it also could erode the relationship first responders have with their communities. If immigrants, even those in the country legally, believe police officers, medical personnel or firefighters are going to report them to immigration officials, they may hesitate to call for much-needed help.
McGowan said she thinks if the bill becomes law, it “would have a chilling effect on individuals seeking state services” such as medical care, mental health care and police protection,” and would negatively affect immigrants’ educational opportunities. She also thinks it would subject victims of violent crimes and/or abuse “to greater danger.”
President Donald Trump has pledged to strip federal funds from jurisdictions that declare themselves “sanctuary cities.”
“We urge lawmakers and advocates to oppose S.B. 2710,” Bishop Kopacz said in his statement. “We will, as a Catholic community, continue to work with immigrants and refugees – welcoming their contributions to our community and culture – even as we pray for a just solution to the challenges of immigration and security.”
(Editor’s note: the full text of the statement is available here.)

Ancient mandate to welcome strangers still applies

By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI
In the Hebrew Scriptures, that part of the bible we call the Old Testament, we find a strong religious challenge to always welcome the stranger, the foreigner. This was emphasized for two reasons: First, because the Jewish people themselves had once been foreigners and immigrants. Their scriptures kept reminding them not to forget that. Second, they believed that God’s revelation, most often, comes to us through the stranger, in what’s foreign to us. That belief was integral to their faith.
The great prophets developed this much further. They taught that God favors the poor preferentially and that consequently we will be judged, judged religiously, by how we treat the poor. The prophets coined this mantra (still worth memorizing): The quality of your faith will be judged by the quality of justice in the land; and the quality of justice in the land will always be judged by how orphans, widows and strangers fare while you are alive.
Orphans, widows and strangers! That’s scriptural code for who, at any given time, are the three most vulnerable groups in society. And the prophets’ message didn’t go down easy. Rather it was a religious affront to many of the pious at the time who strongly believed that we will be judged religiously and morally by the rigor and strictness of our religious observance. Then, like now, social justice was often religiously marginalized.
But Jesus sides with the Hebrew prophets. For him, God not only makes a preferential option for the poor, but God is in the poor. How we treat the poor is how we treat God. Moreover the prophets’ mantra, that we will be judged religiously by how we treat the poor, is given a normative expression in Jesus’ discourse on the final judgment in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 25. We are all familiar, perhaps too familiar, with that text. Jesus, in effect, was answering a question: What will the last judgment be like? What will be the test? How will we be judged?
His answer is stunning and, taken baldly, is perhaps the most challenging text in the Gospels. He tells us that we will be judged, seemingly solely, on the basis of how we treated the poor, that is, on how we have treated the most vulnerable among us. Moreover at one point, he singles out “the stranger”, the foreigner, the refugee: “I was a stranger and you made me welcome … or … you never made me welcome.” We end up on the right or wrong side of God on the basis of how we treat the stranger.
What also needs to be highlighted in this text about the last judgment is that neither group, those who got it right and those who got it wrong, knew what they were doing. Both initially protest: the first by saying: “We didn’t know it was you we were serving” and the second by saying: “Had we known it was you we would have responded.” Both protests, it would seem, are beside the point. In Matthew’s Gospel, mature discipleship doesn’t depend upon us believing that we have it right, it depends only upon us doing it right.
These scriptural principles, I believe, are very apropos today in the face of the refugee and immigrant issues we are facing in the Western world. Today, without doubt, we are facing the biggest humanitarian crisis since the end of the Second World War. Millions upon millions of people, under unjust persecution and the threat of death, are being driven from their homes and homelands with no place to go and no country or community to receive them. As Christians we may not turn our backs on them or turn them away.
If Jesus is to be believed, we will be judged religiously more by how we treat refugees than by whether or not we are going to church. When we stand before God in judgment and say in protest: “When did I see you a stranger and not welcome you?” Our generation is likely to hear: “I was a Syrian refugee and you did not welcome me.”
This, no doubt, might sound naïve, over-idealistic and fundamentalist. The issue of refugees and immigrants is both highly sensitive and very complex. Countries have borders that need to be respected and defended, just as its citizens have a right to be protected. Admittedly, there are very real political, social, economic and security issues that have to be addressed. But, as we, our churches and our governments, address them we must remain clear on what the scriptures, Jesus and the social teachings of the church uncompromisingly teach: We are to welcome the stranger, irrespective of inconvenience and even if there are some dangers.
For all sorts of pragmatic reasons, political, social, economic and security, we can perhaps justify not welcoming the stranger; but we can never justify this on Christian grounds. Not welcoming stranger is antithetical to the very heart of Jesus’ message and makes us too-easily forget that we too once were the outsider.
(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser, theologian, teacher and award-winning author, is President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX.)

Bishops launch letter campaign urging Trump to protect religious freedom

By Carol Zimmermann
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Saying “religious freedom in America has suffered years of unprecedented erosion,” the U.S. Catholic bishops have posted an online letter for Catholics to send to President Donald Trump urging him to sign an executive order promoting religious freedom.
The letter, found at www.votervoice.net/USCCB/Campaigns, says the president can “restore the federal government’s respect for the religious freedom of individuals and organizations” with an executive order that establishes a “government-wide initiative to respect religious freedom.” Individuals can sign the letter and hit a link to submit it to Trump.
A leaked draft version of a potential religious freedom order was circulating in the media and among federal staff and advocacy groups at the end of January. When White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about the draft Jan. 30, he said he would not get “ahead of the executive orders that we may or may not issue.” He noted that there have been a lot of executive actions and “a lot of things that the president has talked about and will continue to fulfill, but we have nothing on that front now.”
A White House official told ABC News that the leaked draft on religious freedom is one of hundreds of circulating orders that were either written by the transition team or the White House.
Although Spicer did not elaborate on the leaked document, he told reporters that freedom of religion in the U.S. should mean “people should be able to practice their religion, express their religion, express areas of their faith without reprisal.”
“And I think that pendulum sometimes swings the other way in the name of political correctness,” he added.
The four-page draft has raised concerns among those who said it would legalize discrimination and was too far-reaching, but University of Notre Dame law professor Richard Garnett said in an email to Catholic News Service that the “critics are dramatically overstating” what the order can do.
The draft states that “Americans and their religious organizations will not be coerced by the federal government into participating in activities that violate their consciences.” It also notes that people and organizations do not “forfeit their religious freedom when providing social services, education or health care.” It cites the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which states that government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless that burden “is the least restrictive means to further a compelling governmental interest.”
The U.S. bishops, who have made religious liberty a priority, have not released a statement on potential executive action on religious freedom by Trump but in the online letter available for Catholics to sign stressed such an order should include some of the following measures:
– Relief from the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate. Currently, the mandate – issued by the federal Department of Health and Human Services as part of the implementation of the health care law – requires most religious employers to provide coverage of artificial birth control for their employees even if the employer is morally opposed to such coverage. There is a very narrow exemption for churches.
– Preservation of tax-exempt status for nonprofit groups that hold beliefs based on marriage and human sexuality.
– The ability of religious organizations that partner with the federal government to act according to their beliefs regarding marriage, human sexuality and the protection of human life at all stages.
– The ability of religiously affiliated child welfare providers to provide adoption, foster or family support services for children that coincide with their religious beliefs.
— Conscience protections about abortion in the individual health insurance market.
(Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.)

Advocates stress that U.S. has moral obligation to welcome refugees

By Dennis Sadowski
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Leaders from six organizations want Americans and President Donald Trump to understand that refugees, especially those from war-torn Middle Eastern countries, are average people with careers, comfortable homes and loving families rather than see them as a monolithic threat to the United States.
Their appeal during a Feb. 1 news conference at Casa Italiana at Holy Rosary Church in Washington came as refugees continued to be denied entry into the U.S. nearly a week after Trump ordered a 120-day suspension of the U.S. refugee resettlement program.
Officials of Catholic Charities USA, Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., Catholic Relief Services, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and the Center for Migration Studies called on Trump to rescind his presidential memorandum implementing the suspension, saying the country has a moral obligation to welcome people fleeing for their lives.
They called the world’s refugee crisis a pro-life issue.
“One of the issues for many of us in this country is that we can’t imagine that the refugee is a person like ourselves, that many of the people that are now caught in camps or horrible situations are people like ourselves who woke up one morning and learned that everything they had was destroyed,” said Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA.
“We all have to stop objectifying them. These are human beings like you and I,” she said, recalling the people in northern Iraq she recently contacted via online video communications.
Other leaders cited the country’s long history of welcoming refugees as well as church teaching on welcoming the stranger. They said the U.S. should not relinquish its role as a moral leader in refugee resettlement, especially for those who have been cleared or are awaiting final approval to enter the country. Any delay in their arrival puts them at greater threat, the leaders said.
“These refugees are victims of the same violence that we are trying to protect ourselves from,” said Jill Marie Gerschutz-Bell, senor legislative specialist at Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency. “And yet it is American principles, of course, that we are trying to protect. So a disproportionate security response leaves us wondering: What does it mean to be American? What does it mean to be Catholic?”
Welcoming refugees can be an act that not only protects them but also protects U.S. security, said Don Kerwin, executive director of the Center for Migration Studies in New York City. “It’s not really a balance. Refugee protection actually advances and furthers security,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean that there doesn’t have to be careful screening and that there’s responsibilities for improving that screening based on intelligence,” Kerwin added. “Those need to be implemented. But the fact is we have a very, very secure screening process for refugees. It’s more secure than any other admission process for any other category of immigrants.”
Trump’s memorandum, one of three governing immigration issues during the first week of his administration, 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 religious criteria for refugees, proposing to give priority to religious minorities over others who may have equally compelling refugee claims.
The resettlement program’s suspension also will affect about 700 employees of Catholic Charities agencies nationwide, with layoffs expected for nearly all of the workers because the stream of refugees has ended, said Sister Markham.
“We absolutely depend on the partnership between public and private funding to support these programs,” she explained. “We don’t have the resources to carry them without that partnership. Four months carrying 700 employees with no income is not feasible for a charitable organization like Catholic Charities.”
The bishops’ MRS department in conjunction with diocesan Catholic Charities agencies resettled about 23,000 of the nearly 85,000 refugees admitted into the U.S. in fiscal year 2016. The majority of them were women and children, said William Canny, MRS executive director.

People attend a Feb. 1 vigil sponsored by the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition in Nashville in response to President Donald Trump's Jan. 27 executive order suspending the entry of refugees into the United States for 120 days. (CNS photo/Theresa Laurence, Tennessee Register)

People attend a Feb. 1 vigil sponsored by the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition in Nashville in response to President Donald Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order suspending the entry of refugees into the United States for 120 days. (CNS photo/Theresa Laurence, Tennessee Register)

The number of refugees resettled is a small proportion of the 21 million refugees tallied worldwide by the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Canny noted.
He also expressed concern that the resettlement program had enjoyed bipartisan support from Congress and Democratic and Republican White Houses over the years, but that “in the last year or so we saw a breakdown” in such backing.
Trump’s other executive memoranda – one calling for a surge in immigrant detention and deportation and the other setting the stage to build a multibillion dollar 2,000 mile wall along the U.S.-Mexico border – drew criticism from Jean Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.
An increase in enforcement by federal and local officials “threatens due process and makes our communities and their residents, American and foreign-born, less safe,” Atkinson said. “We’re already seeing men and women afraid to go out into their communities, to go to work, to take their children to school to take them to medical appointments.”
While the organizational leaders pledged to advocate for refugees as long as needed, they also invited Catholics to voice their objection to the president’s actions.
J. Kevin Appleby, senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies, said if Catholics mobilized, they could influence the president to change his mind.
“This is a really important moment for Catholics in our country,” he said. “The church is in a particular position to influence this administration I think in positive ways on these issue. Catholics voted for President Trump for various reasons, so they have the ability to convince the administration that they are on the wrong course.”

La Sagrada Familia nos recuerda la difícil situación de los migrantes

Por Obispo Joseph Kopacz
Con la fiesta de la Epifanía celebramos la culminación de la temporada navideña, finalizando oficialmente con el bautismo del Señor el lunes pasado. Estamos bien entrado en el nuevo año, pero esta semana pasada fue notable como la Semana Nacional de Migración designada por los Obispos Católicos Estadounidenses durante más de 25 años. ¿Por qué existe esa conmemoración única en esta época del año? Sigue leyendo por favor.
A lo largo de la temporada de Navidad celebramos, y ojalá hayan experimentado, la gloria de Dios que resplandece en el rostro de Jesucristo. Si es así, hemos seguido una larga línea de casi dos mil años, a la luz de la Encarnación. Comenzando con el anuncio de los ángeles, abrazado con entusiasmo y alegría por los pastores, y resueltamente, buscado por los Magos, los relatos de la Infancia sentaron las bases para todos los discípulos en beneficio de las generaciones venideras hasta el momento presente. San Pablo en la segunda carta a los Corintios, describió esta experiencia para todos los creyentes en la Palabra hecha carne. “Dios ha diseñado de tal manera que su luz brilla en nuestros corazones para darnos la luz de conocer su gloria revelada en la faz de Jesucristo” (2Cor 4,6)
En la historia de la salvación, que se celebra en los relatos de la infancia, la alegría que irrumpe del encuentro con Jesucristo es palpable e irresistible. Cuando alguien encuentra la misericordia de Dios, nosotros, como mujeres y hombres, descubrimos o redescubrimos la esperanza para nuestra vida, alimento para nuestros corazones, mentes y almas. A su vez, esta nueva vida de la salvación está destinada a ser difundida a lo largo y a lo ancho en crecientes círculos por todos los tiempos en comunidades de fe, de esperanza y de amor, de justicia, de paz y de servicio en nuestros hogares y en nuestro mundo.
Pero la historia de la Natividad en la vida de María y de José, también revela la valentía necesaria para permanecer en el sendero de la vida que nos dirige a Dios en este mundo en el rostro de circunstancias difíciles. Más allá de sentimentalismo y observanciones piadosas, tenemos una historia paradigma para todas las familias y personas que se han visto obligadas a abandonar sus casas y hogares. La Virgen María y San José tuvieron que viajar durante los días finales de su embarazo. Cuando llegaron a Belén recibieron un poco de ayuda, y aunque no fue mucha, fue importante. Como extranjeros, no tenian un lugar para quedarse, y el tiempo para el nacimiento del Señor estaba cercano. No fue la intención de San Lucas y Mateo extenderse en las preocupaciones humanas de la Sagrada Familia, pero podemos imaginarnos que las parteras, que todavía están en servicio en nuestro tiempo para la mayoría de los nacimientos en el mundo, ciertamente una estuvo presente para ayudar a María en el parto y recoger a Jose cuando se desplomó sobre la paja. Después de un arduo viaje, el hambre y la sed tenían que pesar sobre estos extranjeros procedentes del resto del mundo, y estamos agradecidos por las personas anónimas que les proporcionaron alimento para el espíritu, mente y cuerpo. Y en esta fiesta de la Epifanía, nos enteramos de que la estrella condujo a los Magos hacia la casa donde María y el niño estaban hospedados. Gracias a la hospitalidad y generosidad de las personas de esa localidad, la Sagrada Familia tuvo un lugar donde estar.
De extranjeros a refugiados, la historia continúa. Tan pronto como los tres Reyes Magos partieron por otro camino, un cambió para siempre, María, José y el niño Jesús tuvieron que huir para salvar sus vidas. Sabemos de la crueldad de Herodes y la matanza de los inocentes, incluyendo a su propio hijo, en su codicia por conservar su poder. Esta históricamente documentado que cuando César Augusto, el emperador que había comenzado todo en movimiento con su mandato del censo, recibió la noticia de la matanza ordenada por Herodes dijo con asombro a tal brutalidad que era mejor ser uno de los cerdos de Herodes (porque los judíos no comen cerdo) a uno de sus hijos.
En ese momento, Jesús, María y José eran refugiados que huyeron a Egipto, donde permanecieron durante dos o tres años. Allí recibieron la hospitalidad de un círculo de personas desconocidas que les permitio vivir, trabajar y crecer en familia. Por último, regresaron a Nazaret, en el norte de Israel, porque el hijo de Herodes era el rey, y la amenaza de muerte era real.
Es evidente que a principios de enero es un momento ideal para estar conscientes de la situación de casi 65 millones de personas en nuestro mundo de hoy, que como la Sagrada Familia se han visto obligados a migrar y/o huir de su tierra y su hogar por una variedad de razones.
El tema para este año de la Semana Nacional de Migración está tomado de una de las expresiones del Papa Francisco, “Crear una cultura de encuentro”. Como los pastores y los Magos, una vez que hemos encontrado a Jesucristo nuestra vida nunca es la misma. Los objetivos de esta semana han permanecido inalterados durante más de 25 dijo con asombro a tal brutalidad, que lo mejor era ser uno de los cerdos de Herodes (porque los judíos no comen cerdo) a uno de sus hijos. En ese momento, Jesús, María y José eran refugiados que huyeron a Egipto, donde permanecieron durante dos o tres años. Aquí reciben la hospitalidad de un círculo de personas desconocidas que les permita vivir, trabajar y madurar como familia. Por último, regresan a Nazaret, en el norte de Israel, porque el hijo de Herodes era el rey, y la amenaza de la muerte era real.
Es evidente que a principios de enero es un momento ideal para crecer en la conciencia de la situación de casi 65 millones en nuestro mundo de hoy, que como la Sagrada Familia se han visto obligados a migrar y/o huir de la tierra y el hogar para una variedad de razones. El tema para este año de la Semana Nacional de Migración está tomado de uno de Papa Francisco’ expresiones de referencia, para crear una cultura de encuentro. Como los pastores y los Magos, una vez que nos hemos encontrado a Jesucristo nuestras vidas nunca son los mismos. Los objetivos de esta semana han permanecido inalterados durante más de 25 años: educar sobre la compleja realidad de la migración, que incluye a los migrantes, los inmigrantes, los refugiados y las víctimas del tráfico de seres humanos, para fomentar una cultura de encuentro en la que las comunidades católicas abren sus corazones y sus manos para darle la bienvenida a los recién llegados, no como extranjeros, sino como miembros del Cuerpo de Cristo, para dar gracias por los muchos en nuestra sociedad que son como aquellos que ayudaron a la Sagrada Familia.
En mis viajes alrededor de la diócesis, y en mi trabajo en Caridades Catolicas, me siento inspirado al ver el desarrollo de los objetivos de la Semana Nacional de Migración. Personas en la iglesia y en todo el estado están sirviendo a las comunidades de migrantes que están aquí legalmente para recoger y procesar los cultivos de los que estamos acostumbrados a disfrutar. Muchos están trabajando para apoyar a quienes han sido víctimas de la trata de personas cuyas historias claman al cielo por justicia y compasión. Los inmigrantes, documentados e indocumentados, están contribuyendo significativamente al bienestar económico y social de nuestro estado y de las comunidades locales, incluyendo a nuestras parroquias en toda la diócesis.
Desde las secuelas de la guerra de Vietnam en los años 70’s, Caridades Católicas, en colaboración con una red de profesionales y personas compasivas en nuestro estado, ha estado acogiendo y sirviendo a menores refugiados no acompañados provenientes de todo el mundo. Estos jóvenes han prosperado, y ahora son ciudadanos productivos de nuestro país.
Dejando de lado la retórica de la reciente campaña presidencial y elección, y la inacción y la insensibilidad de todos los Congresos y presidentes durante décadas, hay muchos en nuestro estado y en nuestro país que están encontrando, acompañando, y se hacen amigos de aquellos que han llegado a nuestras puertas. La Semana Nacional de la Migración es una semana de 52 pero viene a principios del Nuevo año y oramos para que sus nobles objetivos siembren semillas y den frutos a lo largo del año.
A medida que progresa el nuevo año estaremos implementando la renovada Misión, Visión y las prioridades pastorales de la diócesis. En armonía con los objetivos de la Semana Nacional de Migración, os dejo con nuestra visión diocesanas. Para servir a otros _- para abrazar la diversidad – para inspirar el discipulado. Que Dios, que ha comenzado en nosotros la buena obra, la lleve a plenitud en el día de Cristo Jesús.

Holy family reminds us of migrants’ plight

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
With the Feast of the Epiphany we celebrated the culmination of the Christmas season, ending officially with the Baptism of the Lord this past Monday. We are well into the new year, but this past week has been noteworthy as the National Migration Week – designated such by the American Catholic Bishops for more than 25 years. Why is there such a unique commemoration at this time of year? Read on, please.
Throughout the Christmas season we celebrated, and hopefully experienced, the glory of God shining on the face of Jesus Christ. If so, we have followed in a long line for nearly two thousand years in the light of the Incarnation. Beginning with the announcement of the angels, embraced eagerly and joyfully by the shepherds, and resolutely sought by the Magi, the Infancy Narratives laid the foundation for all disciples in succeeding generations right up to the present moment. Saint Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians described this experience for all believers in the Word made flesh. “God designed it so that his light shines in our hearts in order to give us the light of knowing his glory revealed on the face of Jesus Christ.” (2Cor 4,6)
In the history of salvation that is celebrated in the Infancy Narratives the joy that breaks forth from an encounter with Jesus Christ is palpable and irresistible. When anyone encounters the mercy of God we, as women and men, discover or rediscover hope for our lives, nourishment for our hearts, minds, and souls. In turn this new life of salvation is intended to be diffused far and wide in ever increasing circles for all time in communities of faith, hope and love, of justice, peace and service in our homes and in our world.
But the story of the Nativity in the lives of Mary and Joseph also reveals the courage that is required to stay on the path of life that directs us to God in this world in the face of daunting circumstances. Beyond sentimentality and pious observances, we have a paradigm story for all families and individuals who are forced to abandon hearth and home. The Virgin Mother and Saint Joseph had to travel during the final days of her pregnancy. When they arrived in Bethlehem they received a little bit of help, and although not much, it was important. As strangers, they did not have a place to stay, and the time for the Lord’s birth was at hand. It was not the intention of Saint Luke and Matthew to dwell on the specific human concerns of the holy family, but we can imagine that midwives, who are still on hand in our time for the majority of births in our world, were certainly present to help Mary deliver, and to pick up Joseph when he collapsed on the straw.
After an arduous journey, hunger and thirst had to weigh heavily upon these strangers from elsewhere, and we are grateful for those nameless folks who provided nourishment for spirit, mind, and body. And on this feast of the Epiphany, we hear that the star led the Magi to the house were Mary and the child were lodging. Thanks to the hospitality and generosity of the locals, the holy family had a roof over their heads.
From strangers to refugees, the story continues. As soon as the three Kings departed by another route, forever changed, Mary and Joseph and the child Jesus had to flee for their lives. We know of the brutality of Herod and the slaughter of the innocents, including his own son in his lust to preserve his power. It is historically documented that when Cesar Augustus, the Emperor who had started it all in motion with his mandated census, received the news of this massacre ordered by Herod he said in amazement at such brutality, that it was better to be one of Herod’s pigs (because Jews did not eat pork) than one of his children. In that moment Jesus, Mary and Joseph were refugees who fled to Egypt where they remained for two or three years. There they received the hospitality of an unknown circle of people allowing them to live, work and mature as a family. Finally, they returned to Nazareth in northern Israel because Herod’s son was the king, and the threat of death was real.
It becomes clear that early January is an ideal time to grow in awareness at the plight of nearly 65 million in our world today who like the holy family have been forced to migrate and/or flee from hearth and home for a host of reasons. The theme for this year’s National Migration Week is taken from one of Pope Francis’ benchmark expressions, “To Create a Culture of Encounter.” Like the shepherds and the Magi, once we have encountered Jesus Christ our lives are never the same.
The goals for this week have remained the same for more than 25 years: to educate on the complex reality of migration which includes migrants, immigrants, refugees and victims of human trafficking, to encourage a culture of encounter in which Catholic communities open their hearts and hands to welcome the newcomers, not as strangers, but as members of the Body of Christ, to give thanks for the many in our society who are like those who helped the holy family.
In my travels around the diocese, and in my work at Catholic Charities, I am inspired to see the development of the sought after goals of the National Migration Week. People in the Church and throughout the state are serving the migrant communities who are here legally to pick and process the crops that we are accustomed to enjoy. Many are working to support those who have been victims of human trafficking whose stories cry out to heaven for justice and compassion.
Immigrants, documented and undocumented, are contributing significantly to the economic and social wellbeing of our State and local communities, including our parishes throughout the diocese. Catholic Charities since the aftermath of the Vietnam war in the late 70’s, in collaboration with a network of professional and compassionate people in our state, has been welcoming and serving unaccompanied refugee minors from around the world. These young people have thrived, and are now productive citizens of our country.
Putting aside the rhetoric of the recent presidential campaign and election, and the inaction and callousness of all Congresses and presidents for decades, there are many in our state and in our country who are encountering, accompanying, and befriending those who have arrived at our doorsteps. The National Migration Week is one week of 52 but it comes as the New Year dawns, and we pray that its noble goals will plant seeds and bear fruit throughout the year.
As the new year progresses we will be implementing the refreshed Mission, Vision, and Pastoral Priorities for the diocese. In harmony with the goals of the National Migration Week, I leave you with our diocesan Vision. To serve others — to embrace diversity — to inspire discipleship. May God who has begun the good work in us bring it to fulfillment on the day of Christ Jesus.