Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso and Bishop Edward J. Burns of Dallas write:
Texas officials are poised to shutter several religious ministries, which would leave foster children without homes and immigrant children in mass facilities. Unless something changes, this will happen on Aug. 31, in violation of state laws protecting religious freedom.
Across the state of Texas, Catholic Charities provides homelike care to hundreds of vulnerable migrant children every day; many were born in Texas and some were abandoned and alone after crossing the border. Children in our homes often suffer from severe trauma, instability and uncertainty. For those who crossed the border, many escaped or evaded drug cartels and child sex traffickers on their way into this country.
Motivated by our faith, Catholic Charities provides food, clothing and shelter to these children, following Jesus’ command to care for orphans and widows in their distress, to welcome the stranger and to care for those who suffer.
But this work is now in peril. A recent state-level executive order will soon strip the child care licenses from any organization that provides shelter to migrant children, including the six child welfare programs operated by Catholic Charities in Texas. While perhaps well-intentioned, this order has serious unintended consequences. The order wouldn’t just remove migrant children from care; it would also close homes that care for Texas-born foster children. Instead of relieving pressure on Texas’ overstressed foster care system, it would transfer hundreds of these kids each year into a system that is already short on homes.
And it would remove state-level conscience protections for Catholic Charities, exposing us to regulation and pressure from those who do not share our commitment to the dignity, safety and well-being of mothers and children. The move will cost children homes and Texans jobs. Were Catholic Charities to lose their state license, this would strip well over 100 Texas foster children of loving foster families and necessary support, and if our homes closed, it could mean the loss of hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in economic impact in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas.