Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tuscon, Arizona, leveled harsh criticism against the tone of some Congress members, saying that they were treating undocumented migrants as subhuman. “I must say up front that the U.S. bishops continue to be concerned with the tone on Capitol Hill toward immigrants,” he stated to the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Enforcement in a Feb. 11 testimony. “We do not agree with terms that characterize immigrants as less than human, since no person is 'illegal' in the eyes of God. Such harsh rhetoric has been encouraged by talk radio and cable TV, for sure, but also has been used by public officials, including members of Congress.” Immigration has been a hot battle in Washington ever since President Obama, through executive action, expanded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in November. His action allowed millions of qualified immigrants to stay in the U.S. for up to three more years. House Republicans responded by overturning the action within a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security. They have also just introduced three new bills that would strengthen law enforcement against undocumented immigration and overturn the DACA program. Bishop Kicanas said that he represented the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in voicing opposition to the bills. His diocese stretches along the Arizona-Mexico border. The bishop prefaced his testimony by recalling the example of the late American humanitarian aid worker Kayla Mueller, a hostage of the terror group ISIS who was confirmed dead this past week. Mueller, who hailed from Arizona, was helping refugees from Syria’s civil war before she was captured by ISIS. “Kayla, who dedicated her life to the service of others, represents the best of our country’s values,” Bishop Kicanas said. “She spent her life and lost her life in attempting to help the most vulnerable, here and overseas. She felt the pain and suffering of others, and responded. We might learn from the example of a fellow American.” The bishop then explained why he opposed the three proposed immigration bills, starting with their repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The bills “would repeal protections for children fleeing violence in Central America, and would keep children in detainment for long periods of time, and would weaken protections for abandoned, neglected, and abused children,” he stated. “Our country is judged by how we treat the most vulnerable, and the removal of protection from children, the most vulnerable, flies against human decency and violates human dignity,” he said. “The removal of due process from these children seeking safety, as these bills would do, is like a fireman showing up at a burning building and locking the doors.”
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