The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ stand in unity with our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters. We agree with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious’ (LCWR) concerns and with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades’ statement on the recent Executive Orders halting refugee admissions. These concerns are addressed in the statements below.
LCWR Expresses Deep Concern about Executive Orders
January 30, 2017
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) is deeply disturbed by many of President Trump’s recent executive orders. His misplaced priorities and denigration of the values that form the bedrock of this nation, threaten us all.
We are deeply concerned about the administration’s executive orders on immigration and refugee resettlement which serve only to threaten border communities, force our immigrant community members further into the shadows, and endanger those fleeing violence. These misguided executive orders do nothing to make anyone more secure and may well have the opposite effect.
Spending billions of dollars on an unnecessary and ineffective wall and further militarizing the border will divert funding from health, education, and social programs and will not make America safe again. In fact, such action threatens the health and well-being of border communities, the environment, and those seeking refuge in our country. President Trump’s orders, if enacted, will tear families apart, challenge our already stressed immigration courts, and deny those fleeing persecution and violence their right to asylum; all at enormous cost to our treasure and our souls.
The president’s attempt to enhance public safety in the interior by cutting federal funding to sanctuary cities and counties will have the opposite effect. It challenges local authority and threatens to destroy the hard won trust of the immigrant community. The order eviscerates prosecutorial discretion and places every undocumented person in the country in danger of immediate deportation.
Finally, we are appalled by President Trump’s order which bans residents of seven Muslim majority countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days, suspends refugee resettlement entirely for four months, and bars resettlement of Syrian refugees indefinitely. This is unconscionable in the face of the unprecedented global refugee crisis. More than 61 million people have been displaced from their homes, more than at any time since World War II. Some 21 million are refugees; most are children who have been forced from their homes by unthinkable violence. The Trump administration has forced all of us to turn our backs on families who are literally running for their lives.
This nation has a long history of welcoming immigrants and sheltering refugees. Women religious have been blessed to be able to accompany and serve immigrant and refugee communities across this country for a very long time. Catholic sisters remain committed to welcoming refugees who come to this country after passing through the U.S. government’s already rigorous screening processes. Halting or undermining the U.S. refugee resettlement program leaves vulnerable refugees, including women and children fleeing violence, in extreme danger and diminishes us all.
We strongly object to President Trump’s attempts to limit our ability to heed God’s call to welcome the stranger (Mt. 25:35) and to care for those most in need (Mt 25:40) and we are particularly concerned about rules and regulations that deny access to refugees because of their religion, race, or nationality. It is a violation of our faith and every norm of humanity.
We vow to continue to welcome refugees and minister to immigrants. LCWR and its members will continue to press for restoration of refugee resettlement, relief for families, an end to needless deportations, and the closure of all family detention centers. We will continue to advocate for compassionate, bipartisan legislation that fixes our broken immigration system. We will continue to stand in solidarity with families, regardless of immigration status, who labor daily to provide safety and security for their children.
LCWR is an association of leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States. The conference has nearly 1300 members, who represent more than 38,800 women religious in the United States. Founded in 1956, LCWR assists its members to collaboratively carry out their service of leadership to further the mission of the Gospel in today’s world.
Statement of Bishop Rhoades on Executive Order on Refugees
The Church stands firm in its commitment to the defense of the life and dignity of the human person and to the promotion of the common good. Just last week, I joined over 1,000 young people from our diocese at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., where we publicly witnessed to the dignity of the unborn child. It was a joy to bear witness to the Gospel of Life.
Our commitment to the Gospel of Life also includes the defense of the lives of so many innocent people who are victims of violence, war, religious persecution, and terrorism. The number of refugees in the world today, persons who have had to flee their homes because their lives are in danger, is staggering. The Church has been a leading agent in caring for and helping refugees, including resettling so many men, women, and children in our country. I am proud of the excellent work of our own diocesan Catholic Charities in this area of service to these “least of our brothers and sisters.”
I am saddened by the Executive Order of our president which suspends the entry of refugees into our country for 120 days, which indefinitely stops the admission of Syrian refugees, and which bars people from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days. Many refugees are fleeing from ISIS and other extremists. They are victims and are looking for safety. Many are children. I cannot imagine what it must be like for a father or mother to be in such desperate straits, only desiring the safety and wellbeing of their family.
Clearly our government has a responsibility to protect the safety and security of the United States. Certainly we must be vigilant lest terrorists infiltrate the refugee population. But, as many attest, including our Church agencies involved in refugee settlement, “the U.S. is already using a thorough vetting process for refugees, especially for those from Syria and surrounding countries” (Sean Callahan, CRS President). Fear should not lead us to forsake the innocent, of whatever nation or religion, whose lives are in danger.
We must remember the criteria by which Jesus said we will be judged, including whether or not we welcomed the stranger among us. “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me,” Jesus said, in the parable of the last judgment, to those granted entry into His Kingdom. “I was a stranger and you gave me no welcome,” Jesus said to those who were sent to eternal punishment.
Finally, it is important to keep in mind our responsibility to work for and promote the common good. The common good is not only the good of our nation, but also the good of the human family, the universal common good. Our brothers and sisters in the human family who are refugees are crying out for our compassion and love. Let us pray fervently for refugees, for their safety, and for a renewed openness in our country to welcoming these brothers and sisters in need.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades’ statement was published in the February 5, 2017 edition of the Today’s Catholic. Bishop Rhoades is the Bishop of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese.
Graphic used with permission of the Catholic Sisters of the Upper Mississippi River Valley