In his latest column, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia called out the Trump administration and Congress for putting families in jeopardy while further frustrating immigration reform.
“...there’s a human cost to political theater that can be inexcusably ugly, especially when it’s paid by children. The administration’s most recent blunder – separating children from their parents caught illegally entering the country – was both stupid and destructive, and the storm of anger it sparked, warranted,” Chaput wrote June 22.
Last week, President Donald Trump walked back a policy at the U.S.-Mexico border that had been causing political uproar throughout the country for weeks.
In May, the Trump administration announced a “zero tolerance” policy: immigrants found illegally crossing the border would be held in a federal jail until they go before a federal judge, who must determine whether immigrants will receive prison sentences for crossing the border illegally.
This shift lead to family separation, because children cannot be held legally in a federal jail for more than 20 days per the 1997 Flores Settlement. These children were placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services while their parents’ cases were processed.
The separations sparked a nation-wide uproar, as images and recordings of distressed, separated children were widely broadcast.
On June 20, Trump announced an executive order that ended the practice of family separation, but maintained the zero tolerance policy.
Chaput wrote that “The worst part of this story … is that it’s simply the latest chapter in an endless and often hypocritical struggle by both political parties over the details of immigration reform.”
“The wrangling has been going on for many years. And the result is always the same: gridlock and mutual recrimination.”
Chaput and many other U.S. bishops have frequently spoken out in support of immigrants and their families, calling for policies that respect human dignity and keep families united.
“Yet despite hundreds of painful stories” about the human cost of unjust immigration policies, “nothing substantially has changed about our immigration laws in the last 12 months, or in the last 24 or 36 or 48,” Chaput noted.
And while the Trump administration has recently “aggravated” the problem, “there’s plenty of blame to go around” for the political impasse when it comes to real immigration reform, Chaput added.
“The responsibility for fixing our immigration problems has always resided with Congress, not the White House, and over the past decade both political parties have excelled at the kind of calculating, partisan obstructionism that makes a fix impossible,” he said.
“We’re better than this as a nation. And if we really want to ‘make America great again,’ with a moral character that proves it, then the people who make and apply our laws need to act accordingly.”