San Angelo Catholic Diocese Wades Into Illegal Immigration Controversy
SAN ANGELO, TX – Catholic bishops at the national and state of Texas level expressed support for allowing “Dreamers,” or the children of illegal immigrants, to legally immigrate to the U.S. The stand by the Catholic Church is controversial, especially in regions like west Texas where the 2016 presidential election saw support for President Donald Trump, who ran on a platform to curb illegal immigration, exceeded 70 percent of the vote.
Last Thursday, the Texas Catholic Bishops issued a statement denouncing the Trump administration’s decision to terminate the executive order that implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. That same day, the Diocese of San Angelo sent the statement to all Catholics in San Angelo via email in support of allowing Dreamers to immigrate here.
“We say, first, to DACA youth: regardless of your immigration status, you are a child of God. You are welcome in the Catholic Church. We support you and will advocate for you,” the statement begins, setting the tone.
“We denounce the termination of DACA. Under the program, more than 110,000 young adults brought to Texas as children received work authorization and temporary reprieve from deportation. DACA youth contribute to the economy, serve honorably in our armed forces, excel in our schools and universities, minister in our churches, and volunteer in our communities. We are proud to claim them as our own,” the Texas Catholic bishops stated.
DACA was implemented by an executive order by President Barrack Obama, a Democrat, in 2012. Republicans argued the executive branch has no authority to create DACA, as it is effectively a law, and legislation is the responsibility of the legislative branch, the U.S. Congress.
Opposition to DACA comes in the form of a legal argument, such as the one Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona stated on NPR’s All Things Considered last Wednesday.
“So no one's saying that you have to be deported right away. But what ends up happening - how about getting back to the rule of law, you know? I think Justice Brandeis said it very, very well. In a government of laws, the existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law,” the Republican congressman said.
Steve Bannon, Trump’s former Senior Strategist, suggested in a 60 minutes interview that aired Sunday night that Catholic bishops needed “illegal aliens” to fill the church pews. “They have an economic interest,” Bannon said. “They have an economic interest in unlimited immigration, unlimited illegal immigration.”
Bannon, who is Catholic, separated what he views as largely a political statement by the U.S. bishops from Christian Catholic doctrine.
“As much as I respect Cardinal [Timothy] Dolan and the bishops on doctrine, this is not doctrine,” Bannon responded. “This is not doctrine at all. I totally respect the pope and I totally respect the Catholic bishops and cardinals on doctrine. This is not about doctrine. This is about the sovereignty of a nation. And in that regard, they're just another guy with an opinion,” Bannon said.
The head of the Diocese of San Angelo, Bishop Michael Sis, disagrees with Bannon’s assessment. “DACA recipients represent an extremely small percentage of the people in our pews. DACA recipients are not all Catholics. If our incentive in this matter were an economic one, we would be taking the position of the rich and powerful, not the immigrants of limited resources,” Sis wrote this morning in an email to LIVE!
“Our church is found around the world, not only in this country. When an immigrant comes to occupy a pew in one country, they have emptied a pew in another country. Therefore, for the universal Catholic Church, the fact of immigration does not present a net loss or gain,” Sis added.
Sis said that the Biblical message supports the right to emigrate and the responsibility to welcome immigrants.
According to a Morning Consult/Politico poll taken in April, nationally, 53 percent of Catholics, 57 percent of Protestants, and 54 percent of evangelical Christians support DACA.
With a nod to Bannon, that poll was linked in an article in Christianity Today headlined, “Evangelicals to Trump: Don’t Deport Our Next Generation of Church Leaders.”
The Texas bishops called upon Texas’ two U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, and Congressman Mike Conaway whose district includes the Concho Valley, along with the other 35 members of Congress from Texas to vote in favor of the Dream Act of 2017: S.1615/H.R. 3440. They requested all Catholics in Texas to contact their representative to ask for support of the bill.
Sis added, “President Trump has challenged the U.S. Congress to resolve by law the dilemma of the DACA recipients. Under President Obama's DACA plan, the Dreamers did not have a stable solution. The temporary nature of the reprieve put them in a situation of limbo. What is needed is a stable solution. I understand that the Dream Act of 2017 (S.1615/H.R. 3440) could be a reasonable solution.”
Sis wants our nation to find a balance between securing U.S. sovereignty and allowing legal immigration.
“People have a fundamental human right to migrate, and nations have a right and responsibility to control their borders and regulate immigration. What we're talking about here is the intersection of those rights. I believe it is possible to find a solution that includes a secure border as well as a humane immigration policy,” Sis said.
President Trump’s six-month moratorium on retiring the DACA executive order ends March 5, 2018.
Congressman Mike Conaway’s office did not respond in time for this article.
The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, or TCCB, provides a moral and social public policy voice, accredits the state's Catholic schools, and maintains archives that reflect the work and the history of the Catholic Church in Texas.