On Jan. 25, President Donald Trump issued an executive order to construct a wall between the United States and Mexico and to increase immigration detention and deportation.
The United States Conference for Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a statement from Bishop Joe Vasquez, chair of the Committee on Migration and Bishop of the Diocese of Austin, saying, “This action will put immigrant lives needlessly in harm's way. Construction of such a wall will only make migrants, especially vulnerable women and children, more susceptible to traffickers and smugglers. Additionally, the construction of such a wall destabilizes the many vibrant and beautifully interconnected communities that live peacefully along the border. Instead of building walls, at this time, my brother bishops and I will continue to follow the example of Pope Francis. We will ‘look to build bridges between people, bridges that allow us to break down the walls of exclusion and exploitation.’”
The previous day, University President John Garvey published an op-ed in America Magazine considering whether immigration policy should be guided by self-interest or charity. “Putting to one side the concerns of political prudence, it seems plain that an immigration policy rooted in charity and hospitality is worthy of our admiration,” he said.
This commentary was referenced in a Catholic News Agency story on reactions from Catholic leaders on President Trump’s executive order: “We should ‘welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin,’” he said, quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2241.
Earlier in the week, Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies and associate professor of politics, mentioned the U.S. Bishops’ concern for immigrants in a panel discussion on religion and the Trump administration on PBS’s Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.
President Garvey’s support for those who qualified for reprieve from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan was expressed in December when he joined more than 100 leaders of U.S. Catholic colleges and universities in signing statements of support. He talked to reporters from Crux and Our Sunday Visitor about the statement.
“These young people who are immigrants, who are not citizens and do not have permanent residency, they were brought here as kids by their parents, and they have done what we want all young Americans to do, which is to succeed in high school, go to college and work hard,” he said in Our Sunday Visitor.