Separating children

Separation is cruel

From Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM
Province of St. John the Baptist
June 19, 2018

It was while I was on vacation with my parents and my sister and brother. I was all of 4 years old. My parents went to this beautiful lake with small identical cottages that dotted the rim of the lake, along with three other couples and their children. I had happily accompanied my good friend, Phil, over to his house. We had played with trucks and cars, moved to the sandbox, and chased each other in a game of tag. I was tired and went back "home", when I realized that I didn’t know which of the identical cottages was our cottage. I was separated, alone, confused. I began to cry and went up to a random cottage that happened to be another one of my parents’ friends, who then directed me to the correct cottage.

I’ll never forget that sense of panic and fear. I wonder what it’s like for those immigrant children who are being forcibly separated from their parents at the border. Some are still in diapers. I can’t imagine the fear of a mother in a shopping center whose baby is grabbed by an unknown assailant. Could it be much different than having your baby taken by immigration officers?

I agree with our Catholic Bishops of the USCCB and their defense of asylum as "an instrument to preserve the right to life." The decision of the U.S. government to separate children from their parents destroys the ability of asylum to save the lives of the parents and their children. Even if their very lives are threatened, will they risk coming to "the home of the free and the brave"? Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the USCCB President, puts it very eloquently when he says, "Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together…. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral." (See below)

I fear that we now live in a country that does not respect the right to life of people fleeing violence. We believe that it is somehow their fault. Separating children from their mothers is cruel and an offense against the right to life. It makes me wonder just how brave we really are.

(Fr. Mark Soehner is Provincial Minister of St. John the Baptist Province.)

Keep families together

Statement from Daniel Cardinal DiNardo
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
June 13, 2018

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life. The Attorney General's recent decision elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection. These vulnerable women will now face return to the extreme dangers of domestic violence in their home country. This decision negates decades of precedents that have provided protection to women fleeing domestic violence. Unless overturned, the decision will erode the capacity of asylum to save lives, particularly in cases that involve asylum seekers who are persecuted by private actors. We urge courts and policy makers to respect and enhance, not erode, the potential of our asylum system to preserve and protect the right to life.

Additionally, I join Bishop Joe Vásquez, Chairman of USCCB's Committee on Migration, in condemning the continued use of family separation at the U.S./Mexico border as an implementation of the Administration's zero tolerance policy. Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma. Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together. While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.

(Cardinal DiNardo is President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Balance justice, mercy

Statement from Archbishop Gregory Aymond
Archdiocese of New Orleans
June 18, 2018

In the last six weeks, nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their parents at the Texas border. Separating children from their parents often leads to long-term emotional scarring. Particularly for these families who are already in a state of anxiety and fear, the impact on both the children and the parents, will no doubt be long-lasting. As a people of faith, we must speak out for these children.

The teaching of the Catholic Church is that if a person is experiencing injustice, persecution, or danger, they have a human right to find a place of security in which to begin a new life. We believe in the dignity of the human person and the preservation of the family. Nations are encouraged to create laws that will allow legal immigration in a just way. As a church we have never suggested, "Open our borders – all are welcome", yet countries must regulate their borders with justice and mercy. We believe immigration should be guided by laws that show charity while providing safety and security. Our current immigration laws are not guided by these principles and are not fair or just.

Let us recall the principle in Jewish law and the teaching of Jesus, "Do to others what you would have them do to you" (Luke 6:31). We are called to pray for those unjustly treated and to be a voice for them. I invite all people of good will to join me in prayer for our sisters and brothers and to act on their behalf by contacting our government officials and urging them to stop these dehumanizing practices and make a sincere effort towards comprehensive immigration.