Mixed Messages From Church Leaders


Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, head of the archdiocese of San Antonio,  has been one of the most vocal leaders of  the Catholic Church speaking out against the Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance policy on illegal immigration. Archbishop Garcia-Siller, published a statement earlier this year on the immigration crisis, saying that the administration’s policies “will punish the majority of immigrants that want to come to America, the land of the free, for a better future.”

The Jesuit periodical, America Magazine, publicized another statement on video by Archbishop Garcia-Siller where he condemned the administration’s zero tolerance policy as evil, unjust, “the way the devil works, inhuman (sic) … It’s totally unjust … when the family is the target for destruction, for persecution.”

On Sunday, July 1st, in his sermon at the downtown cathedral of San Antonio, the Archbishop again spoke of the immigration crisis one day after the leftwing protest group, MoveOn.Org, a George Soros-funded organization, held a rally outside the cathedral with similar talking points used by the Archbishop decrying the evil of illegal border entry restrictions. A favored sign at the rally in San Antonio and others across the nation held on June 30th read “Abolish ICE” (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security) Mass goers at the cathedral were encouraged to send a postcard to their congressional representative to lobby against the Trump administration’s policies in dealing with the border crisis. (Read last week’s article, The Real Victims of a Broken Immigration Policy).

Read the White House Fact Sheet on the consequences of abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement Agency. “Abolishing ICE Would Erase America’s Borders And Open The Floodgates To More Crime, Drugs, And Terrorism

Archbishop Jose Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, former archbishop of San Antonio, published a more balanced view of the immigration crisis. In his weekly news platform last week, Archbishop Gomez wrote from McAllen, Texas, fixing the blame where it rightly belongs, the decades long broken national immigration policy, the consequence of a lack of leadership and collective long term inaction by the cowardly members of the  U.S. Congress:

I am writing from McAllen, Texas, where I have joined some of my brother bishops to pray and try to bring hope to the hundreds of undocumented children being detained here and in nearby Brownsville.

McAllen is in the Rio Grande Valley, about five miles north of the Mexican border. It is now the center of the humanitarian crisis caused by our government’s policy of separating children from parents caught crossing the border.

Family separation did not begin with this administration. But reports of thousands of children being held in detention facilities across the country has struck a chord in our national conscience. People are waking up to the fact that this is the sad consequence of 25 years of Congress’ failure to fix our broken immigration system…

And as I was making my way to McAllen, about a 150-mile drive, I was reflecting that perhaps we need to start looking at the immigration issue from this side of the border.

When we look with the eyes of Central American peoples fleeing violence and poverty, we see what America means to them — a beacon of hope, a land where it is still possible to find honest work and dream of a better life for their children.

This is the vision of America that has drawn immigrants and refugees since America’s founding.

But many good people today are anguished over immigration. They talk to me about it and write to me all the time.

We are not against immigrants, they say. What we oppose is illegal immigration. We do not like to see our government separating families, they say. But these parents knew the risks when they tried to cross our borders illegally with their children. It is their own fault.

I understand these people’s frustrations.

But when you talk to parents here in McAllen, when you understand the conditions they were living under in their home countries — then you start to wonder what you would do if you were in their shoes.

Knowing their stories may not change our hearts or minds. And it will not change the fact that these parents broke our laws. But knowing their stories should make us thank God every day that we are not forced to make these kinds of choices in our own lives, for our own families.

When you are in a border town, you realize even more the truth that every nation has the duty to secure its borders and enforce its laws.

A commonsense and compassionate solution on immigration is within reach. What we are waiting for is politicians with the courage to do what is right. And we have been waiting for 25 years.

The question is how much longer will we have to wait.

While we often hear one side of the gospel message and teachings of our Christian faith from church leaders regarding welcoming the stranger and caring for the weakest and most vulnerable of our human family (Mt. 25:40), their voices are  often mute on the subject of responsibility and justice towards our own citizenry and sovereignty of our nation. The statements of Pope Benedict XVI at the 97th World Day of Migrants and Refugees held in Rome in 2011 where he quotes from his predecessor’s writing and adds his conclusion are worth repeating:

The challenge is to combine the welcome due to every human being, especially when in need, with a reckoning of what is necessary  for both the local inhabitants and the new arrivals to live a dignified and peaceful life.” (Pope John Paul II, World Day of Peace 2001, 13).

At the same time, States have the right to regulate migration flows and to defend their own frontiers, always guaranteeing the respect due to the dignity of each and every human person. Immigrants, moreover, have the duty to integrate into the host Country, respecting its laws and its national identity.”

The Catholic Catechism’s section on immigration calls attention to the responsibility of prosperous nations in aiding troubled and impoverished countries. America and our citizens have always been a very generous people. We are a nation of immigrants where Ellis Island and the statue of liberty welcomed millions of new Americans to our shores, where the Marshall Plan reconstructed Europe and Japan from the devastation of a terrible world war.

It is time to reunite behind our President and his administration’s efforts to solve our intractable immigration problems with critical reforms of our broken immigration laws enacted by the U.S. Congress. It is long overdue as Archbishop Jose Gomez correctly pointed out.

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