The Magisterium of the Catholic Church is known for being clear but measured when it expresses its position on a particular issue.
It is significant, then, that the bishops of the United States used strong language last week to denounce President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind protections for immigrant youth.
The bishops used the word reprehensible to describe the president’s decision and described it as a heartbreaking moment.
At issue is the president’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Known as DACA, the program allowed about 800,000 people — brought to the U.S. as children without requisite documents — to stay in the U.S. while they worked or attended school.
Nearly a million young people entered the program — emerging from the shadows where the undocumented generally stay — by registering with the government.
President Trump announced Sept. 5 that he was phasing out the program over the course of six months and urged Congress to come up with a new plan in the meantime.
And the future of these 800,000 young people, who believed in the U.S. government’s promises when they made themselves more vulnerable and registered for this program? It’s fraught with uncertainty.
They fear being separated from their parents, siblings and grandparents. They fear being deported to a country many barely remember, having been small children when they left.
Some families who brought their children here were fleeing government-sponsored and gang violence. Others sought the opportunity to feed and educate their children.
With no other legal means to remain in the U.S., these young people are reaching out to their pastors and catechists for comfort and hope.
Forty-nine priests of the Archdiocese of Louisville, some of whom minister to people affected by the decision, bought advertising space in The Record last week to publish a “Statement of Conscience.” It urged readers of the paper to contact their lawmakers and ask them to “end this family-dividing approach to enforcing immigration policies.”
Their message was similar to that of the U.S. bishops and Pope Francis.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued an initial statement on Sept. 5, in which they said plainly, “The cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible.”
“Today’s actions represent a heartbreaking moment in our history that shows the absence of mercy and good will, and a short-sighted vision for the future. DACA youth are woven into the fabric of our country and of our Church, and are, by every social and human measure, American youth.”
The USCCB issued an additional statement on Sept. 12, after it was suggested that immigration issues aren’t part of church doctrine:
It is “preposterous to claim that justice for immigrants isn’t central to Catholic teaching,” said James Rogers, chief communications officer. “Immigrants and refugees are precisely the strangers we must welcome.”
He added, “This isn’t Catholic partisanship. The Bible is clear: Welcoming immigrants is indispensable to our faith.”
In fact, the issue falls squarely within the church’s priorities of human life and dignity and family life.
Pope Francis weighed in on Sept. 10, naming it a pro-life issue and asserting that uprooting young immigrants from their families could be disastrous for young people.
“I’ve heard the president of the United States speak; he presents himself as a man who is pro-life, a good pro-lifer,” Pope Francis said on a flight to Rome. “If he is a good pro-lifer, he understands that the family is the cradle of life and its unity must be defended.”
We can all help defend family unity by urging Congress to protect these young people and pass comprehensive immigration reform.