The U.S. Catholic Bishops are sounding the alarm in response to new immigration orders issued by President Trump that they say will tear apart families and parishes across the nation. In a strongly worded statement, the Chair of the USCCB Committee on Migration Chair said the new executive orders would sever family connections and traumatize the children of immigrants, especially if federal and state officials become more aggressive in deporting unauthorized immigrants.
In one of the orders, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, President Trump declares that many aliens “present a significant threat to national security and public safety.” The order states that the laws will be faithfully executed “against all removable aliens.” The order sets up an order of priority for removing aliens but no aliens are excluded from possible deportation, including those who have lived peaceably in the U.S. for many years.
In fact, unauthorized immigration has stabilized and even declined. As of 2014 (most recent data available) 66% of unauthorized immigrants had been in the U.S. for over a decade. See Pew Research for more. The Catholic bishops are concerned about immigrant families that have established deep roots in U.S communities and parishes. Often the children of these families were either born in the U.S. or brought to the U.S. at a very early age.
Media reports, such as this Washington Post article, indicate President Trump may issue a third executive order halting for 120 days all refugee admissions and resettlements into the U.S. When admissions are permitted again, they would be dramatically reduced from the currently authorized 100,000 to 50,000. If carried out, this order would curtail work done by Catholic Charities agencies that now resettle refugees in communities and parishes in Missouri and around the nation.
The state of Missouri has mostly been on the sidelines on immigration issues. Pew Research reports that unauthorized immigrants make up less than one percent (0.9%) of Missouri’s general population, numbering 55,000. Missouri, however, has played a role in resettling refugees who are legally entering the country as they flee war and persecution. Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri, which has its headquarters in the offices of the Missouri Catholic Conference, has resettled many refugees in the state, helping these families transition to American life.