Trump’s Cut in Refugee Admissions is Disturbing and Deeply Disappointing

The US Bishops are disturbed and deeply disappointed by the Trump administration’s decision to only admit up to 45,000 refugees:

In September 27, 2017, the Administration, in a consultation with Congress, proposed to only admit up to 45,000 refugees to the United States in fiscal year 2018. This Presidential Determination (PD) for Refugee Admissions is the lowest since the founding of the program in 1980 and marks the second consecutive year that the new Administration has reduced the PD. Currently there are 65 million displaced people and 22 million refugees worldwide.

Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, issued the following statement:

“We are disturbed and deeply disappointed by the proposed Presidential Determination number of 45,000 for the upcoming fiscal year. While the Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities, and Catholic communities across the country join in welcoming all of those refugees to American communities with joy and open arms, we are gravely concerned for the tens of thousands of extremely vulnerable refugees left behind by this decision.

“As I have stated before, this decision has very severe human consequences—people with faces, names, children and families are suffering and cannot safely or humanely remain where they are until the war and persecution in their countries of origin gets resolved. These people include at-risk women and children; frightened youth; the elderly; those whose lives are threatened because of their religion, ethnicity or race; and refugees seeking family reunification with loved ones in the United States.

“Each refugee that comes to the United States is admitted through an extensive vetting system. Many of these refugees already have family in the United States, and most begin working immediately to rebuild their lives; in turn contributing to the strength and richness of our society. God has blessed our country with bounty and precious liberty, and so we have great capacity to welcome those in such desperate need, while ensuring our nation’s security….

Looking ahead, we strongly urge the Administration next year to return to the level of resettling at least 75,000 refugees annually to the United States. We can and must do better.

Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed his concerns, as well:

Restricting resettlement, especially in the context of the travel ban, appears to validate the propaganda of the Islamic State and other extremist groups, which claims that the United States is hostile to Muslims. The battle against violent extremism must be fought with guns, but also with ideas. Slamming the door on refugees is a significant strategic blunder.

Opponents of refugee resettlement would have you believe that the country’s enemies are exploiting the program. There is no factual basis for this claim. In fact, of all the people who enter the United States, refugees are the most thoroughly vetted. The screening process is exhaustive and lengthy, and involves numerous agencies. Our intelligence and national security professionals can both vet refugees and protect Americans. Indeed, they’ve done just that for years.

Refugees are victims of extremist groups and brutal governments. They become patriotic, hard-working Americans. Refugees are us. They are teachers, police officers, doctors, factory workers and soldiers. There are thousands of former refugees and children of refugees in the United States military. I served alongside many who were eager and proud to give back to the country that helped them in their time of need.


Pope Francis Launches “Share the Journey” Campaign to Welcome Migrants

via Joshua McElwee:

Pope Francis launched a two-year campaign led by the Catholic church’s global confederation of social service agencies to encourage better understanding of the plight facing the world’s record numbers of migrants and refugees Sept. 27. He called on Catholics to welcome those coming to their countries with “arms wide open.”

Dedicating his entire general audience in St. Peter’s Square to Caritas Internationalis’ new “Share the Journey” campaign, the pontiff said Jesus asks Christians to welcome migrants with arms that are open and ready to give an “affectionate and embracing hug” to people escaping war and violent conflict.

In a reflection on the value of hope, Francis said hope is “the push in the heart” of both the migrant who leaves his or her homeland in search of a better life and the person who welcomes them and wants to “encounter them, to know them, to dialogue together.”

“Hope is the desire to share the journey of life, as the Caritas campaign that we inaugurate today reminds us,” said the pope. “Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to share the journey! Do not be afraid to share hope!”

via Christopher White:

Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the USCCB are part of a global network of organizations participating in the campaign organized by Caritas Internationalis.

Cardinal Luis Tagle, Archbishop of Manila and president of Caritas Internationalis, said the primary purpose of the campaign is to encourage a return to the study of scripture, “where God always had a soft spot in his heart for the most vulnerable.”

In an interview with Vatican Radio, Tagle said “Through this campaign we hope to correct some negative myths about migrants and migration and also to address some of the roots of forced migration.”

The cardinal pointed out that the campaign of action and awareness-raising will give a human face to migrants, as opposed to seeing them as mere numbers and statistics.

“If we do not address this humanitarian crisis with the help of all governments and communities we will see generations of people with their hopes of a future destroyed,” said Tagle.

As a part of the global collective efforts, the participating U.S. organizations have launched a website https://www.sharejourney.org to provide access to ideas and tools to further participation in the campaign.



Cardinal Cupich Discusses Welcoming Refugees and More in New Interview

Fr. Thomas Rosica has a new interview at Salt and Light with Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago. Cardinal Cupich discusses a wide range of topics, including welcoming refugees: “We have to keep burning brightly that lamp that Lady Liberty has in our harbor in New York…it’s part of our heritage, it’s part of our soul. We do have a moral responsibility.” You can watch the interview here:


How Should Christians Respond to the Refugee Crisis? With Love

Millennial writer Elizabeth Bruenig has a new article at America:

Since it is God’s will that all human beings should flourish, he directs his people to at least try to make up to refugees what they have lost: love, kinship, a sense of belonging, a place to call home.

Aloof tolerance cannot do that. Only love can. This is why Pope Francis has recommended that while countries “must be very open to receiving refugees, but they also have to calculate how best to settle them because refugees must not only be accepted but also integrated.” For Christians faced with the refugee crisis at hand, this is the key lesson: It is not enough to simply allow refugees to cross our borders; we are obligated to do more than that because they have lost more than that. Central to this view is the understanding that nothing can replace families, communities and the connections we all have to our places of origin, but to act in love, we must try.


Top 10 Reasons to Oppose Trump’s Refugee Ban

As President Trump tweaks his refugee ban in the hopes of it surviving legal challenges, here’s a reminder of the many reasons to oppose any refugee ban:

  1. It’s immoral and un-American. It violates Christian moral principles and turns away from the American aspiration of being the land of the free and the home of the brave. It contradicts the responsibilities toward refugees, migrants, and foreigners that are given to us in the Bible.
  2. It’s unnecessary. The vetting process is already rigorous.
  3. It’s motivated by xenophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry, and it violates religious freedom.
  4. Pope Francis is calling for the opposite approach.
  5. It violates pro-life principles, as Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark explains.
  6. ISIS loves it. It confirms their narrative of a war between the West and Islam. And it makes the US look weak and afraid.
  7. This should not be a partisan issue. There is a strong conservative case for welcoming refugees.
  8. It’s an alt-right scheme premised on changing demographics in the US, not protecting the American people (which is why so many counterterrorism and national security experts reject the ban).
  9. Catholics know the history of such bigotry and should be vigilant about confronting and opposing it.
  10. It’s legally dubious. Trump asked for a legal way to carry out his Muslim ban, a goal that isn’t legal. Given his intentions, it is not clear that even the revised ban is constitutional.

Meanwhile, Catholic leaders are already pushing back against the new executive order.

The USCCB (Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, Chair of the USCCB Committee on Migration) says:

The removal of one of the original seven predominantly Muslim countries temporarily barred from entering the United States is welcome, but we are disappointed that the revised order maintains the temporary shutdown of the U.S. refugee admissions program, continues the more than 60 percent reduction in the number of refugees who can be resettled into the United States this year, and still temporarily bars nationals from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

The U.S. Catholic Bishops have long recognized the importance of ensuring public safety and would welcome reasonable and necessary steps to accomplish that goal.

However, based on the knowledge that refugees are already subjected to the most vigorous vetting process of anyone who enters the United States, there is no merit to pausing the refugee resettlement program while considering further improvement to that vetting process.

Catholic Relief Services states:

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) opposes the new Executive Order on refugees, noting that while every Administration has an obligation to protect its citizens, the United States need not halt resettlement to undertake a security review.

“The fact is, refugees already undergo significant vetting – more than any other traveler to the United States,” said Bill O’Keefe, CRS’ Vice President for Advocacy…..

“By banning refugees and travel from Syria, Somalia, and Yemen, we are turning our backs on suffering people during their most difficult hours,” he said.

In Yemen, 17 million cannot adequately feed themselves.  More than 13.5 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance, in addition to the nearly 5 million refugees.  And drought in Somalia has left 6.2 million people in need.

“As the world’s most blessed nation, we should be doing more to provide assistance overseas and resettle the most vulnerable, not less.” O’Keefe said. “It is wrong, during this time of great need, to cut humanitarian assistance and reduce resettlement.

“Refugees are fleeing the same terrorism that we seek to protect ourselves from,” he said.  “By welcoming them, we show the world that we are an open, tolerant nation which seeks to protect the vulnerable.  That has always been America’s greatest strength.”

Catholic Charities says:

Today, Sister Donna Markham OP, PhD, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), expressed her profound concern over the new Presidential Executive Order, entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”

“At the heart of the work of Catholic Charities is the Gospel mandate to welcome the stranger and care for the most vulnerable among us,” said Sister Donna.  “Today’s executive order not only hinders that work, but also effectively abandons, for four months, the thousands of endangered refugees fleeing violence, starvation and persecution. It is deeply disturbing to know that the thousands of women, children and other persecuted individuals around the world will face a closed door rather than a helping hand from the United States,” Sister Donna continued.


We Are All Refugees…Some of Us Just Don’t Know It

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My wife and I are one month away from being homeless…at least we thought we might be until yesterday. We are currently in the process of buying a house, and everything was moving along smoothly until the inspector discovered an abandoned oil tank under the driveway. If it turned out that the tank had leaks, it would require extensive cleanup that could take months, even a year or more. That would be a big problem since our landlord has already rented our apartment to a new tenant starting April 1. Fortunately for us, it turned out that the tank had no leaks, so our family’s brush with temporary homelessness will materialize into nothing more than that.

A momentary scare like this one tends to make one very grateful for the roof over one’s head. Even more significantly, Margaret and I are very much aware that we will soon have the privilege of moving into a home of our own at the very moment that we are witnessing a worldwide migrant crisis. Millions of people have been displaced not only from their homes but also their homelands by violent conflict, religious persecution, and economic hardship. This is a heart-wrenching backdrop to a joyful moment in our lives. How is a socially conscious, soon-to-be-homeowner Catholic to feel about all this?

A big reason that we are excited about finally having a home to call our own is that this means having a home to share with others. Margaret and I love to host. For me a dinner party with good friends is an image and foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet, an analogy that Jesus himself drew frequently (see Mt 22:1-14; 25:5-15; Lk 12:31-41). From the time of our engagement, we have talked talked about our hopes that our home would be a place where neighbors would congregate, where our kids’ friends would stick around for dinner, where people would know they always have a place to stay. We have hoped that when we had a house one day, we would be able to open our doors to those in need as our parents have done.

Perhaps it is because all things house-related are consuming my thoughts these days that I was so impacted by a line I recently read in Thich Nhat Hanh’s book How to Love. The Zen Master writes, “As you practice building a home in yourself, you become more and more beautiful.” This idea of building a home, not just around oneself, but within oneself strikes me as profoundly important, especially given the current state of world affairs. My wife and I will soon have a new home that we can open up to others. However, a brick-and-mortar house is not a prerequisite for hospitality. Each of us is a home unto ourselves, or at least we can be if we commit to the necessary interior work. (How much time most of us spend selecting wallpaper and manicuring the lawn and how little time getting our spiritual house in order!) All that we need to feel at home and to make others feel the same—namely, love—is with us wherever we go. Even for those who have been driven from their dwelling places, a kind word or a cup of tea extended in friendship can be all they need to feel a sense of home again.

In this sense hospitality is not the sole prerogative of the well-to-do or even average homeowners; it is a mandate of faith for all Christians. Few commands are repeated more often throughout the pages of the Bible than that of caring for strangers or aliens. (See a sampling here.) Jesus affirms this key tenet of faith by identifying with the homeless and the stranger: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Mt 8:15-25). Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus lay out the criteria for entering God’s kingdom more explicitly than in Matthew 25 where he says, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you… for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:34-35). Scripture leaves no room for excuses on this score. We are all bound to care for the strangers in our midst. Here Jesus does not require something we cannot give. We may not all own houses, but we all have hearts. Therefore, we all have the capacity to welcome others into that inner space that constitutes a home in the deepest sense of the word. Read More