U.S. Bishops Condemn Raids on Migrants and New Rule on Asylum

Geneva, 17 July 2019 - "Enforcement actions like those anticipated this week by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency separate families, cause the unacceptable suffering of thousands of children and their parents, and create widespread panic in our communities," reads a statement released on Tuesday by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

People fleeing violence and human rights abuses in Central America want to reach the United States for a better chance to rebuild their lives in safety. The federal administration's new rule would bar them from applying for asylum in the U.S. Photo: A young woman on the Beast (La bestia), one of the freight trains migrants have been using to cover the long distances. © IOM/Keith Dannemiller 2014 "I condemn such an approach, which has created a climate of fear in our parishes and communities across the country."

The statement comes after President Trump's announcement on Friday that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency would conduct raids aimed at arresting undocumented immigrants in several American cities. These raids were expected to start on Sunday, 14 July and to target 2000 people for deportation.

"A stated intent of these actions," reads Cardinal DiNardo's statement, "is to deter Central Americans fleeing for their lives from seeking refuge in the United States. This is both misguided and untenable.  It is contrary to American and Christian values to attempt to prevent people from migrating here when they are fleeing to save their lives and to find safety for their families."

Cardinal DiNardo urged the federal administration to act with "compassion and dignity," to allow people displaced by violence and persecution to seek refuge in the U.S. and to provide fair legal proceedings to those facing removal. He also appealed to the government to address the root causes of mass migration.

Furthermore, the cardinal’s statement denounced the administration's new rule on asylum eligibility, which was announced on Monday. According to this rule, asylum-seekers having passed through another country on their journey to the U.S. would no longer be eligible to apply to the U.S. They would instead be expected to present their case to the authorities of the first country in which they set foot when fleeing their homes. This would effectively bar all asylum-seekers arriving from Central America who traveled by land.

"The rule," the statement reads, "adds further barriers to asylum-seekers' ability to access life-saving protection, shirks our moral duty, and will prevent the United States from taking its usual leading role in the international community as a provider of asylum protection."

American rights groups have stated their plans to challenge the new rule in court. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has declared that it is not in line with international legal standards.