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Bishop vows to 'stand in solidarity with immigrant families' as Trump orders US-Mexico wall

26 January 2017 | by Catholic News Service

Bishop Vasquez said he and his fellow bishops witnessed the harmful effects of immigrant detention in their ministries

The chairman of the US bishops' Committee on Migration has criticised President Donald Trump's executive memorandum to construct a wall along the US-Mexico border, saying it would "put immigrant lives needlessly in harm's way".

Trump signed two executive orders yesterday (25 January) directing the construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border, boosting border patrol forces and increasing the number of immigration enforcement officers who carry out deportations.

Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas, criticised Trump's memorandum on a surge in immigrant detention and deportation forces, saying it would "tear families apart and spark fear and panic in communities".

Earlier, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the wall, a cornerstone of Trump's election campaign, would "stem the flow of drugs, crime and illegal immigration" along the southern border. He also said Trump's top priority was the nation's security.

But hours later, Bishop Vasquez issued a statement saying that construction of the wall would "make migrants, especially vulnerable women and children, more susceptible to traffickers and smugglers. Additionally, the construction of such a wall destabilises the many vibrant and beautifully interconnected communities that live peacefully along the border.

"Instead of building walls, at this time, my brother bishops and I will continue to follow the example of Pope Francis. We will ‘look to build bridges between people, bridges that allow us to break down the walls of exclusion and exploitation.'"

During a February 2016 visit to Mexico, Pope Francis travelled to the US border at Ciudad Juarez and pleaded for the plight of immigrants. He said those who refuse to offer safe shelter and passage had heard hearts that had "lost their sensitivity to pain".

Bishop Vasquez said the bishops respected the government's right to control its borders and to ensure the safety of all Americans, but said: "We do not believe that a large-scale escalation of immigrant detention and intensive increased use of enforcement in immigrant communities is the way to achieve those goals. Instead, we remain firm in our commitment to comprehensive, compassionate, and common-sense reform."

He said the new policies would "make it much more difficult for the vulnerable to access protection in our country. Every day my brother bishops and I witness the harmful effects of immigrant detention in our ministries. We experience the pain of severed families that struggle to maintain a semblance of normal family life. We see traumatised children in our schools and in our churches. The policies announced today will only further upend immigrant families."

"We will continue to support and stand in solidarity with immigrant families. We remind our communities and our nation that these families have intrinsic value as children of God. And to all those impacted by today's decision, we are here to walk with you and accompany you on this journey," Bishop Vasquez said.

At the 25 January White House briefing, Spicer reiterated that Mexico would pay for construction of the wall. He said Trump would work with Congress on finding money to pay for the construction, noting, "there are a lot of funding mechanisms that can be used".

PICTURE - A photo taken in 2016 shows a newly built section of the US-Mexico border wall at Sunland Park, opposite the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez. 



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