President Donald Trump has ordered construction of a U.S.-Mexican border wall and punishment for cities shielding illegal immigrants. Strong reaction from the Catholic Church.
The new American president has signed an Executive Order for the construction of a multibillion-dollar wall to be built along the 2,000 mile U.S-Mexico border, to strip federal funding from ‘sanctuary’ states and cities that harbour illegal immigrants, and expand the force of American immigration agents. “We are in the middle of a crisis on our southern border: The unprecedented surge of illegal migrants from Central America is harming both Mexico and the United States”, Trump said, adding that “a nation without borders is not a nation”.
In response to the news, Bishop Joe Vasquez, Chair of the Committee of Migration and Bishop of the Diocese of Austin, said “I am disheartened that the President has prioritized building a wall on our border with Mexico. 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”.
In regards to the announcement of the planned surge in immigrant detention and deportation forces, Bishop Vasquez added that “The announced increase in immigrant detention space and immigration enforcement activities is alarming. It will tear families apart and spark fear and panic in communities. While we respect the right of our federal government to control our borders and ensure security for all Americans, we do not believe that a large scale escalation of immigrant detention and intensive increased use of enforcement in immigrant communities is the way to achieve those goals. Instead, we remain firm in our commitment to comprehensive, compassionate, and common-sense reform. We fear that the policies announced today will make it much more difficult for the vulnerable to access protection in our country. Everyday my brother bishops and I witness the harmful effects of immigrant detention in our ministries. We experience the pain of severed families that struggle to maintain a semblance of normal family life. We see traumatized children in our schools and in our churches. The policies announced today will only further upend immigrant families”.
Moving forward after the announcement, Bishop Vasquez noted: “We will continue to support and stand in solidarity with immigrant families. We remind our communities and our nation that these families have intrinsic value as children of God. And to all those impacted by today’s decision, we are here to walk with you and accompany you on this journey”.
According to leaders of the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress, the project will cost between $12 billion and $15 billion. The directives also include hiring 5,000 more U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents used to apprehend people seeking to slip across the border and tripling the number of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents used to arrest and deport immigrants living in the United States illegally. They also create more detention space for illegal immigrants along the southern border to make it easier to detain and deport them.