The United States House of Representatives on June 29 passed two bills in an effort to crack down on undocumented immigration and sanctuary cities.
The “No Sanctuary for Criminals” Act, also known as HR 3003, would strip federal grant eligibility from sanctuary cities which seek to harbor and protect undocumented immigrants from federal immigration authorities. It would ban any legal authority from seeking to prohibit or impede the enforcement of or compliance with national immigration law.
Dozens of such cities exist throughout the country, largely concentrated in California, which have some law or set of laws seeking to inhibit local cooperation with national policies.
The topic had been addressed just weeks before by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Cardinal DiNardo said June 9 at a migration conference that local law enforcement authorities should not be compelled to enforce federal immigration law, as this “would fundamentally alter the relationship between our local law enforcement officials maintain with our local communities, especially immigrant communities.”
He also warned that this “burden” would “tak(e) away from their efforts to ensure public safety” as they “pursu(e) those who are otherwise-law abiding.”
The House also passed a bill dubbed “Kate’s Law” which would establish mandatory minimum sentencing for deported immigrants who return to the country.
According to the Washington Post, the American Civil Liberties Union has criticized the bill for penalizing those fleeing persecution in their home country.
The U.S. bishops have spoken up repeatedly in recent years on the subject of immigration. In 2003, they issued the pastoral letter “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope.” In the document, they defined the rights of persons to migrate, as well as nations to control their borders. They called for refugees and asylum seekers to be protected, and for respect for the human rights of undocumented migrants.
The bishops have been very vocal in recent months in speaking out against the Trump administration’s immigration policies and proposals, calling for a balance of national security and welcoming migrants.
In a November 11 statement, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary of Seattle, congratulated Donald Trump on his election and called for the protection of immigrant families. In the letter, he expressed the bishops’ desire “to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans.”
Following the president’s January executive orders to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and increase immigration detention centers, Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, Texas warned that “(t)he policies announced today will only further upend immigrant families.”
Acting in his role as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, Bishop Vásquez stated that the bishops “strongly disagree” with a decision to halt refuge admissions in a similar order.
In a similar letter in response to two memoranda implementing January’s orders, Bishop Vásquez “recognized “the importance of ensuring public safety” and called for “reasonable and necessary steps to do that.”
However, he condemned the memoranda, saying that “the policies contained in these memoranda will needlessly separate families, upend peaceful communities, endanger the lives and safety of the most vulnerable among us, breakdown the trust that currently exists between many police departments and immigrant communities, and sow great fear in those communities.” He also warned against “the militarization of the U.S./Mexico border.”
The U.S. bishops’ conference voted to give permanent status to their working group on migration at their annual spring meeting in June. The leader of the group, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, stated that “(t)here was a desire to express solidarity with and pastoral concern for those at risk, but also a desire to avoid encouraging exaggerated fears.”
On June 18, Archbishop Gomez celebrated a Mass in Recognition of All Immigrants and in his homily praised “the immigrant spirit that makes America wonderful.” In a July 2 interview, Crux reported, the archbishop came close to tears when recalling that “(i)n the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, many times children don’t want to go to the Catholic schools because they think that their parents are not going to be home in the evening.”
The current administration has deported nearly 66,000 undocumented immigrants, according to Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly. This constitutes a spike from President Obama’s final years in office.