Pope Sides With US Bishops Against Separation Of Illegal Immigrant Children At Border

REUTERS/Tony Gentile

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter
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Pope Francis backed the U.S. Bishops’ conference Sunday in denouncing the Trump administration’s zero tolerance immigration policy and stricter criteria for asylum seekers.

USCCB President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of the Galveston-Houston archdiocese, issued a statement on behalf of the USCCB June 13 denouncing the Justice Department policy of separating children from illegal immigrant families at the border and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ ruling that domestic abuse, as a sole factor, does not qualify someone to receive asylum. Francis said Sunday that he supported the USCCB’s statements and asserted that populism was not a viable solution to immigration issues. (RELATED: Over 600 Methodist Clergy And Laypeople File Formal Complaint Against Jeff Sessions)

“I am on the side of the bishops’ conference,” Francis told Reuters. “Let it be clear that in these things, I respect (the position of) the bishops conference.”

DiNardo’s said in his statement on behalf of the USCCB that Sessions’ ruling on asylum criteria “elicits deep concern” because it will “erode the capacity of asylum to save lives.” DiNardo then expressed solidarity with a statement from Bishop Joe Vásquez, Chairman of USCCB’s Committee on Migration, condemning the policy of separating children from illegal immigrant families at the border while the adults are prosecuted as it exposes children “to irreparable harm and trauma.”

Francis has made a habit of weighing in on U.S. immigration policy. He rebuked President Donald Trump in September of 2017 for his decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, saying that if Trump were truly pro-life he should reconsider that decision.

“If he is a good pro-life believer he must understand that family is the cradle of life and one must defend its unity,” Francis told reporters.

“I hope they rethink it a bit,” Francis added. “Because I heard the U.S. president speak: He presents himself as a person who is pro-life.”

Francis also began a two-year initiative in 2017 to spread Catholic social teaching and advocate for governments throughout Europe and the West to “keep your doors open” and accept migrants and refugees. (RELATED: Pope’s ‘Don’t Close Your Doors’ Refugee Initiative Begins On The 445th Anniversary Of Papal Army Driving Out Islamic Invaders) 

He did, however, approve of Italy’s decision to stop migrant departures from Libya, despite his criticism of U.S. migrant policies.

Francis’ latest admonishment against U.S. immigration policies joins a host of similar denouncements from other faith leaders, including Franklin Graham, Jentezen Franklin, who is a member of Trump’s evangelical council, and Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. A group of over 600 clergy and laypeople of the United Methodist Church, of which Sessions is a member, also issued a formal denominational complaint against Sessions with regard to his role in enforcing and justifying immigration policy.

“It’s not easy, but populism is not the solution,” Francis told Reuters.

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