BY ISN STAFF | January 24, 2019

As the U.S. Senate prepares to debate legislation today that could end the government shutdown while significantly altering U.S. immigration policy, Catholic leaders and organizations are calling on all elected officials to keep the dignity of immigrants and those migrating to the U.S. at the core of their proposals.

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Santo Domingo Ingenio, Oaxaca/Mexico – Nov. 8, 2018: Honduran women and children fleeing poverty and gang violence in the second caravan to the U.S. sit in a dump truck taking them to their next stop [Vic Hinterlang | Shutterstock]

In a statement issued the day after President Trump’s national television address, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, urged President Trump and Congress to end the shutdown while encouraging them to “advance legislation that shows compassion, keeps us safe, and protects the vulnerable.”

Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Vásquez expressed encouragement that President Trump was open to providing legislative relief for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders and existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) but noted that the proposed relief was only temporary and left many people out.

Since the release of the USCCB statement, the Bishop’s Office of Migration and Refugee Services has released a call to action encouraging Catholics to oppose the Senate legislation, known as the “McConnell-Shelby Amendment 5, stating that it is “not a compassionate solution” and would “drastically undermine existing protections for the vulnerable.”

Addressing the situation of DACA recipients and TPS holders, the Jesuit Conference Office of Justice and Ecology (JCU/OJE) and the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) referenced Pope Francis’s 2014 World Day of Migrants speech, saying, “people should not be used as political “pawns,” being forced to repeatedly retreat to the shadows of society to avoid possible deportation.

The JCU/OJE and ISN also addressed the situation of asylum seekers in their joint statement,  noting that policy proposals that limit migrants’ access to asylum in the United States are contrary to Catholic teachings a long tradition of providing refuge to those facing persecution.

On the U.S.-Mexico border, the Kino Border Initiative (KBI), a bi-national ministry that serves asylum seekers and deportees, said that a resolution to the shutdown should not “come at the expense of our moral and religious imperative to maintain family unity and protect vulnerable individuals fleeing violence.”

In a statement issued earlier this week, KBI described the proposed legislation in the Senate, which was pitched by President Trump during his weekend television address, to be “unacceptable” because of its intent to revoke access to asylum for children and youth who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border, requiring to instead utilize regional processing centers. Addressing the proposed funds for detention beds and additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement would also have a negative impact on children and families of immigrants currently in the U.S.

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