Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

021017 refugeeCHARLOTTE — As the courts tackle the refugee travel ban, two families who had their travel to the United States cancelled last month are expected to arrive in Charlotte next week.

The families had their scheduled arrivals to Charlotte cancelled after an executive order issued by President Donald Trump suspended the refugee resettlement program. Susan Jassan, interim director of Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte's Refugee Resettlement Office, said they are still waiting to learn if other families would soon be on their way to Charlotte as well.

The chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration welcomed a federal appeals court ruling that upheld a temporary restraining order against President Donald Trump's travel ban on refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries that also temporarily suspended the country's refugee resettlement program.

"We respect the rule of law and the American judicial process. We remain steadfast in our commitment to resettling refugees and all those fleeing persecution," Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, said in a statement Feb. 10.

"At this time we remain particularly dedicated to ensuring that affected refugee and immigrant families are not separated and that they continue to be welcomed in our country," the statement said.

The bishop pledged that church agencies would continue to welcome people "as it is a vital part of our Catholic faith and an enduring element of our American values and traditions."

In a decision issued late Feb. 9, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected the government's argument to lift the freeze on the president's order and maintained that the court had jurisdiction in the case as a check on executive power.

Trump had argued that his order was a matter of national security and that the courts had no claim to adjudicate the issue.

The panel ruled otherwise saying that such an argument "runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy."

The administration is expected to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Trump said in a posting on Twitter minutes after the ruling was released: "SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!"

He later told reporters that the judges had made "a political decision."

The case was filed by the state of Washington, which argued that Trump's order was unconstitutional because it discriminated against Muslims and that state agencies were harmed because students and employees were barred from re-entering the country. The state of Minnesota subsequently joined the lawsuit.

U.S. District Court Judge James Robart of Seattle halted Trump's travel ban Feb. 3 by granting a temporary restraining order.

Several lawsuits have been filed challenging Trump's Jan. 27 executive order that suspended the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days and banned entry of all citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries -- Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia -- for 90 days.

Another clause in the order established religious criteria for refugees, proposing to give priority to religious minorities over others who may have equally compelling refugee claims.

— Catholic News Service. Catholic News Herald contributed

Pictured above: A Syrian woman washes clothes inside her tent Jan. 19 at Syria's Bab Al-Salam camp for displaced in Azaz, near the Turkish border. When it comes to helping the poor, the marginalized and refugees, Pope Francis urged Catholics not to mimic the "Mannequin Challenge" by just looking on, frozen and immobile. (CNS photo/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)

021017 refugeeCHARLOTTE — As the courts tackle the refugee travel ban, two families who had their travel to the United States cancelled last month are expected to arrive in Charlotte next week.

The families had their scheduled arrivals to Charlotte cancelled after an executive order issued by President Donald Trump suspended the refugee resettlement program. Susan Jassan, interim director of Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte's Refugee Resettlement Office, said they are still waiting to learn if other families would soon be on their way to Charlotte as well.

The chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration welcomed a federal appeals court ruling that upheld a temporary restraining order against President Donald Trump's travel ban on refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries that also temporarily suspended the country's refugee resettlement program.

"We respect the rule of law and the American judicial process. We remain steadfast in our commitment to resettling refugees and all those fleeing persecution," Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, said in a statement Feb. 10.

"At this time we remain particularly dedicated to ensuring that affected refugee and immigrant families are not separated and that they continue to be welcomed in our country," the statement said.

The bishop pledged that church agencies would continue to welcome people "as it is a vital part of our Catholic faith and an enduring element of our American values and traditions."

In a decision issued late Feb. 9, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected the government's argument to lift the freeze on the president's order and maintained that the court had jurisdiction in the case as a check on executive power.

Trump had argued that his order was a matter of national security and that the courts had no claim to adjudicate the issue.

The panel ruled otherwise saying that such an argument "runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy."

The administration is expected to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Trump said in a posting on Twitter minutes after the ruling was released: "SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!"

He later told reporters that the judges had made "a political decision."

The case was filed by the state of Washington, which argued that Trump's order was unconstitutional because it discriminated against Muslims and that state agencies were harmed because students and employees were barred from re-entering the country. The state of Minnesota subsequently joined the lawsuit.

U.S. District Court Judge James Robart of Seattle halted Trump's travel ban Feb. 3 by granting a temporary restraining order.

Several lawsuits have been filed challenging Trump's Jan. 27 executive order that suspended the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days and banned entry of all citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries -- Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia -- for 90 days.

Another clause in the order established religious criteria for refugees, proposing to give priority to religious minorities over others who may have equally compelling refugee claims.

— Catholic News Service. Catholic News Herald contributed

Pictured above: A Syrian woman washes clothes inside her tent Jan. 19 at Syria's Bab Al-Salam camp for displaced in Azaz, near the Turkish border. When it comes to helping the poor, the marginalized and refugees, Pope Francis urged Catholics not to mimic the "Mannequin Challenge" by just looking on, frozen and immobile. (CNS photo/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)

Refugee families to be resettled in Charlotte halted by Trump's order

Refugee families to be resettled in Charlotte halted by Trump's order

013017 immigrantCHARLOTTE — Two refugee families expected to be welcomed by the Diocese of Charlotte this week will not be coming to the United States after an executive order issued by President Donald Trump.

"The Protection of the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States," which suspends the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days, bans entry from all citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries – Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia – for 90 days. It also establishes a religious criteria for refugees, proposing to give priority to religious minorities over others who may have equally compelling refugee claims.

The Jan. 27 action, intended to restrict the entry of terrorists coming to the United States, brought an outcry from Catholic leaders in the diocese and across the country and led to protests at airports and cities across the country, including Charlotte, Asheville, Greensboro and Raleigh.

The Diocese of Charlotte's Refugee Resettlement Office was scheduled to receive three refugee families this week, said Diocese of Charlotte spokesman David Hains.

“So far we have been told that one family from Syria will not be coming and one family from Somalia will not be coming,” he said Jan. 30. The diocese did welcome a Bhutanese family of four that traveled from Nepal on Jan. 30.

It's not known yet exactly what will happen to the Syrian family of three and the Somali family of four who were expected to arrive Jan. 30-31, said Susan Jassan, interim director of Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte's Refugee Resettlement Office. Before they may travel to the United States, refugees must pass health and security screenings, she said. Those clearances are good only for a limited amount of time. She's unsure if they will be resettled elsewhere or placed back in refugee camps.

With offices in Charlotte and Asheville, Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte works in partnership with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the U.S. State Department to resettle refugees fleeing war, political upheaval, or religious, economic or ethnic persecution. In 2016, the agency resettled 419 refugees and asylees, and last October alone, five Syrian families were welcomed to western North Carolina through these offices.

Catholic Charities' Refugee Resettlement Office provides services to help these refugees adapt to their adopted homeland by becoming self-sufficient, productive members of their community. They provide housing assistance, job training and counseling help, school registration, health care referrals, community and cultural orientation, budgeting and financial education, interpretation services and referrals to ESL classes, and more.

"It is very disappointing to learn that two refugee families scheduled to arrive in Charlotte this week have been turned away," said Bishop Peter J. Jugis. "We have decades of experience in settling thousands of families fleeing persecution in their native country. These people have made a rich contribution to the life and culture of western North Carolina.

"I join with my brother bishops in the effort to work vigorously to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans. As Catholics we respond to the Biblical call to welcome the stranger – it is an act of love and hope."

North Carolina was among the top 10 states that welcomed refugees last year – taking in 3,342 refugees in fiscal year 2016, according to U.S. State Department data analyzed by the Pew Research Center.

It's not known how many refugees would have been resettled in the diocese over the next four months, Jassan said, because the system that communicated information to the diocese about upcoming arrivals has been suspended. However, during this same 120-day period last year, 158 refugees were settled in the Charlotte diocese. It's safe to assume another 150 people would have come over next few months, she said.

In 2016, 28 percent of the refugees welcomed by the diocese came from countries banned under this order. Most came from Somalia, 44, followed by Syria, 29, Iraq, 18, Sudan, 12, and seven from Iran.

According to information from the USCCB given to Catholic Charities, the maximum number of refugees expected to be taken in this fiscal year has been reduced from 110,000 to 50,000. As of Jan. 23, 35,889 refugees out of that maximum number of 50,000 have already been welcomed, leaving only approximately 14,000 refugee slots available once the administration's temporary order is lifted in four months. Of that 14,000, the USCCB expects to handle about 3,000 cases, Catholic Charities officials said, and those will be distributed among the dioceses. Refugee families with ties in the U.S. or who have U.S. sponsors – which represent about 75 percent of the cases the Charlotte agency handles –  might still be able to resettle here, but Catholic Charities officials said they are unsure of specifics right now.

"This is going to hurt our communities," Jassan said. "I think it's going to have very detrimental and reverberating effects throughout our communities. That is our biggest concern. It’s going to affect refugees who were going to come here, families who have now been split apart. It’s going to affect all of us in the community who are impacted by refugees who don't even know they are.

"Refugees are small business owners, hard workers throughout the diocese. They attend our schools and bring multiculturalism to the classroom. So many of our clients, when they get here, are incredibly grateful and they spread that message to their families back in the (refugee) camps. Even in light of the executive order, I hope they are able to still spread that message because the amount of kindness and warmth they experience here."

Pictured: A young girl dances with an American flag at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Dallas Jan. 29 as women pray during a protest against a travel ban imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump's executive action. (CNS photo/Laura Beckman, Reuters)

Church leaders are using phrases such as "devastating," "chaotic" and "cruel" to describe the action that left already-approved refugees and immigrants stranded at U.S. airports and led the Department of Homeland Security to rule that green card holders – lawful permanent U.S. residents – be allowed into the country.

"This weekend proved to be a dark moment in U.S. history," Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said in a Jan. 29 statement. "The executive order to turn away refugees and to close our nation to those, particularly Muslims, fleeing violence, oppression and persecution is contrary to both Catholic and American values. Have we not repeated the disastrous decisions of those in the past who turned away other people fleeing violence, leaving certain ethnicities and religions marginalized and excluded? We Catholics know that history well, for, like others, we have been on the other side of such decisions.

"Their design and implementation have been rushed, chaotic, cruel and oblivious to the realities that will produce enduring security for the United States," Cardinal Cupich said. "They have left people holding valid visas and other proper documents detained in our airports, sent back to the places some were fleeing or not allowed to board planes headed here. Only at the 11th hour did a federal judge intervene to suspend this unjust action."

"The Protection of the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States," which suspends the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days, bans entry from all citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries – Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia – for 90 days. It also establishes a religious criteria for refugees, proposing to give priority to religious minorities over others who may have equally compelling refugee claims.

"We are told this is not the 'Muslim ban' that had been proposed during the presidential campaign, but these actions focus on Muslim-majority countries," said Cardinal Cupich. "Ironically, this ban does not include the home country of 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers. Yet, people from Iraq, even those who assisted our military in a destructive war, are excluded."

Infographic: The Top U.S. States For Refugee Resettlement In 2016 | Statista

The cardinal quoted Pope Francis' remarks to Congress in 2015: "If we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities."

He said Pope Francis "followed with a warning that should haunt us as we come to terms with the events of the weekend: 'The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.'"

Mercy Sister Rose Marie Tresp, director of justice for the Sisters of Mercy South Central Community in Belmont, said she encourages everyone to contact their congressional representatives as well as the president about this issue.

"The action doesn't make a lot of sense, actually. It's promoting paranoia. Refugees coming to this country are vetted by the United Nations as well as the U.S. while in refugee camps. Often the process takes years. They're against the things we're against. They're fleeing governments we don't support," Sister Rose Marie said.

While this executive order and the scale of those affected seems "massive," Sister Rose Marie said she doesn't know if the peaceful protesting at airports since the order will help.

"If we don’t push back, it’ll get worse. So we have to do something," she said.

Among those protesting outside the entrance to Charlotte Douglas International Airport Jan. 29 were Deacon Chip Wilson of Belmont and his wife Terri.

Said Deacon Wilson, "I accepted my wife's invitation to show up at the airport after I realized I've run my mouth a lot from the pulpit about how we need to follow the Church's teaching on immigration. This was a chance to actually do something."

The atmosphere among the protestors was positive, he said, despite a couple of negative comments from passing drivers.

"One guy at the stop light yelled, 'Keep America free, white and Christian!' This white Christian American was ready to yell back an un-Christian phrase or two," Deacon Wilson said. "Then a young Muslim stepped beside me and shouted back, 'We love you! We love you!' Then the rest of the protesters joined him. The heckler was so startled, he quit yelling and drove off."

During the next four months, Jassan said the diocese's Refugee Resettlement Office will be working to support and comfort those refugees who are already in this country.

"Pretty soon, we’ll find out from USCCB how many we’ll receive after this 120-day (temporary halt) through the end of the federal fiscal year," she said. "From that, we'll be able to gauge how much we need to amp up (resources) to meet whatever that number is. So it's a combination of planning and just taking things day by day, really looking out for those already in the country and trying to make them feel welcome."

"That's something everyone can play a part in," Jassan added. "Advocate for refugee settlement. Those who are able can also give financial donations and volunteer, focusing on welcoming the refugees who are here. Having people who already live here to help these families sends a strong message."

More than 20 people work in the Refugee Resettlement Office in Charlotte and three in Asheville, Jassan said. A lot of them are former refugees themselves or have worked with refugees for decades, and funding for their positions is tied to the number of refugees that the diocese resettles. Because of this order, Jassan said, these people's jobs could be in jeopardy.

"We’re doing everything we possibly can to try to keep people employed," she said. "We have 11 staff members who receive funding for their positions from the USCCB."

Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego said the executive action was "the introduction into law of campaign sloganeering rooted in xenophobia and religious prejudice. Its devastating consequences are already apparent for those suffering most in our world, for our standing among nations, and for the imperative of rebuilding unity within our country rather than tearing us further apart."

"This week the Statue of Liberty lowered its torch in a presidential action which repudiates our national heritage and ignores the reality that Our Lord and the Holy Family were themselves Middle Eastern refugees fleeing government oppression. We cannot and will not stand silent," he said in a statement Jan. 29.

Shortly after Trump signed the document at the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration, said the bishops "strongly disagree" with the action to halt refugee resettlement.

"We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope," Bishop Vasquez said.

The USCCB runs the largest refugee resettlement program in the United States, and Bishop Vasquez said the Church would continue to engage the administration, as it had with administrations for 40 years.

"We will work vigorously to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed in collaboration with Catholic Charities without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans, and to ensure that families may be reunified with their loved ones," he said.

He also reiterated the bishops' commitment to protect the most vulnerable, regardless of religion. All "are children of God and are entitled to be treated with human dignity. We believe that by helping to resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith as Jesus has challenged us to do."

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C., called attention to the USCCB statement and the executive action and noted that "the legal situation is still fluid and news reports are sometimes confusing."

"The political debate, which is complex and emotionally highly charged, will continue, but we must do our best to remain focused on the pastoral and very real work we undertake every day for the vulnerable and most in need ... for the strangers at our doors," he said.

Around the country, people gathered at airports to express solidarity with immigrants and green card holders denied admission, including an Iraqi who had helped the 101st Airborne during the Iraqi war. More than 550 people gathered at Lafayette Park across from the White House Jan. 29 to celebrate Mass in solidarity with refugees.

In a letter to the president and members of Congress, more than 2,000 religious leaders representing the Interfaith Immigration Coalition objected to the action.

In a separate statement, Jesuit Refugee Services-USA said the provisions of the executive action "violate Catholic social teaching that calls us to welcome the stranger and treat others with the compassion and solidarity that we would wish for ourselves."

Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, said: "Welcoming those in need is part of America's DNA.

"Denying entry to people desperate enough to leave their homes, cross oceans in tiny boats, and abandon all their worldly possessions just to find safety will not make our nation safer. The United States is already using a thorough vetting process for refugees – especially for those from Syria and surrounding countries. CRS welcomes measures that will make our country safer, but they shouldn't jeopardize the safety of those fleeing violence; should not add appreciable delay nor entail unjust discrimination."

— Kimberly Bender, online reporter. Catholic News Service contributed.

Infographic: Where America's Refugees Come From | Statista

 

Bishops say refugee ban raises deep concerns over religious freedom

Bishops say refugee ban raises deep concerns over religious freedom

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The chairmen of three U.S. bishops' committees Jan. 31 expressed solidarity with the Muslim community and expressed deep concern over religious freedom issues they said President Donald Trump's refugee ban raises.

Trump's executive memorandum of Jan. 27 "has generated fear and untold anxiety among refugees, immigrants and others throughout the faith community in the United States," said the committee chairmen in a joint statement. "In response … we join with other faith leaders to stand in solidarity again with those affected by this order, especially our Muslim sisters and brothers."

"We also express our firm resolution that the order's stated preference for 'religious minorities' should be applied to protect not only Christians where they are a minority, but all religious minorities who suffer persecution, which includes Yezidis, Shia Muslims in majority Sunni areas, and vice versa," said the statement from by Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of Springfield, Massachusetts, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore and Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

They are, respectively, the chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty and Committee on International Justice and Peace.

"While we also recognize that the United States government has a duty to protect the security of its people, we must nevertheless employ means that respect both religious liberty for all, and the urgency of protecting the lives of those who desperately flee violence and persecution," they said.

— Catholic News Service

Trump's ban of refugees ignites firestorm, but also gains support

Trump's ban of refugees ignites firestorm, but also gains support

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As President Donald Trump signed an executive memorandum intended to restrict the entry of terrorists coming to the United States in the guise of refugees, the action brought quick response from Catholic and other religious leaders.

The largest response came from more than 2,000 religious leaders representing the Interfaith Immigration Coalition who objected to the action in a letter to the president and members of Congress. The heads of Catholic charitable agencies, organizations working with immigrants and Catholic education leaders also decried the president's action.

The action also drew supporters, with organizations such as the Heritage Foundation and some church leaders saying it was necessary to protect the country's security.

Trump signed the memorandum, titled "The Protection of the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States," during a Jan. 27 ceremony at the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes as new Secretary of Defense James Mattis was sworn in. The president also signed a second executive action designed to build the strength of the U.S. military.

Regarding the refugee action, Trump said it was meant to keep "Islamic terrorists out of the United States. We don't want 'em here. We want to make sure they don't enter the country." He added, "The only ones we want to admit into our country are those who will support our county and deeply love our people. We will never forget the lessons of 9/11."

The memorandum suspends the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days and bans entry of all citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries -- Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia -- for 90 days. It also establishes a religious criteria for refugees, proposing to give priority to religious minorities over others who may have equally compelling refugee claims.

The seven countries previously were identified under guidelines established in the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015. The act includes a provision that allows the Department of Homeland Security's to limit Visa Waiver Program travel for certain individuals who have traveled to the seven countries.

The religious leaders' letter said the U.S. has an "urgent moral responsibility to receive refugees and asylum seekers who are in dire need of safety." The correspondence called on elected officials to "be bold in choosing moral, just policies that provide refuge for vulnerable individuals seeking protection."

The leaders also insisted that the U.S. refugee resettlement program remain open to all nationalities and religions that face persecution. They decried "derogatory language" about Middle Eastern refugees and Muslims in particular, adding that refugees "are an asset to this country," serving as "powerful ambassadors of the American dream and our nation's founding principles of equal opportunity, religious freedom and liberty and justice for all."

Among Catholics signing the letter were Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut; Jesuit Father Timothy P. Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States; Mercy Sister Patricia McDermott, president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas; and Sister Ellen Kelly, congregational leader of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd.

In an interview with Catholic News Service Jan. 30 from Geneva, Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, secretary general of the International Catholic Migration Commission, recalled church teaching that holds "we should always welcome the stranger" just as "Jesus taught us by his example."

He explained how the commission has helped about 1 million people since it began collaborating with the U.S. government in 1975. The commission has helped refugees with their applications for entry into the U.S. because of the complexity of the process and its attention to national security.

Msgr. Vitillo called that work an "overwhelmingly positive" experience. He also recalled how much of America was settled by immigrants and built by their contribution.

"I hope the U.S. will stay faithful to that kind of response," he added.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore called for prayer as the country responds to the series of immigration- related memorandum signed by the president since Jan. 20. He specifically cited the need for prayers for the nation's leaders and "the people who call this country their home, including our immigrant sisters and brothers."

"While we affirm the right of sovereign nations to control their borders, we likewise affirm our moral responsibility to respect every human being's dignity. We must remember that those fleeing horrendous and unspeakable violence and grinding poverty have the right, as children of God, to provide for the basic needs of themselves and their families," Archbishop Lori wrote in a Jan. 30 open letter to Catholics in the archdiocese.

Soon after Trump signed the memorandum, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, who is Catholic, commended the action, saying "our number one responsibility is to protect the homeland."

"We are a compassionate nation, and I support the refugee resettlement program, but it's time to re-evaluate and strengthen the visa vetting process. President Trump is right to make sure we are doing everything possible to know exactly who is entering our country," Ryan said.

Later in the evening, Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, expressed concern for the change in U.S. policy.

"I am especially worried about the innocent children and mothers who have fled for their lives without support and are now caught in this regrettable and terribly frightening situation," she said in a statement. "While I certainly appreciate the importance of vetting to ensure the safety of our country, I also believe we must treat those who are most vulnerable with compassion and mercy and with hearts willing to be opened wide in the face of dire human need."

Officials with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. said the memorandum erodes the U.S. commitment to protect refugees, weakens national security and harms the country's standing in the international community.

"Refugees have enriched our society in countless ways. These newcomers seek protection and the promise of equality, opportunity and liberty that has made our country thrive. When we reject refugees, we negate the welcome that was given to so many of our ancestors," Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Orange, California, chairman of CLINIC's board of directors.

Jeanne Atkinson, CLINIC executive director, added that the U.S must protect refugees rather than reject them because of misplaced fear, especially "when war and persecution have driven more people to flee in search of safety than any other time in modern history."

Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, writing on his blog Jan. 27, raised the 40-year-long concern of the U.S. bishops of the need for comprehensive immigration reform. He wrote that the status of 11 million people who are in the U.S. without documents must be addressed with compassion and with respect for the country's laws.

"The Catholic voice in the immigration debate calls for reform based on reason, compassion and mercy for those fleeing violence and persecution," the blog post said. "At a pastoral level, in our country and in the Archdiocese of Boston, the church must be a community which provides pastoral care, legal advice and social services to refugees and immigrants, as we have done in this archdiocese for more than one hundred years. We will continue this important work through our parishes, Catholic Charities and our Catholic schools.

"Our country has the opportunity to respond to the reality of immigration with policies and practices which reflect our deepest religious and social principles. Together let us make the commitment to be a beacon of light and hope for those who look to us in their time of need," Cardinal O'Malley said.

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit sent a letter Jan. 28 to the Imam's Council of the Michigan Muslim Community Council to express his support for migrants and refugees of all faiths and countries of origin.

The letter, he wrote, reaffirms his "solidarity" with the statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opposing Trump's executive memorandum.

"Please know that the Catholic community will continue to speak out and care for immigrants and refugees, no matter their religion or their country of origin," the letter said.

Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, called on Trump to rescind his action because it "halts the work of valued students and colleagues who have already passed a rigorous, post-9/11 review process, are vouched for by the university and have contributed so much to our campuses."

If the new policy stands, "it will over time diminish the scope and strength of the educational and research efforts of American universities, which have been the source not only of intellectual discovery but of economic innovation for the United States and international understanding for our world," Father Jenkins said in a statement. "And, above all, it will demean our nation, whose true greatness has been its guiding ideals of fairness, welcome to immigrants, compassion for refugees, respect for religious faith and the courageous refusal to compromise its principles in the face of threats."

"I join with my brother bishops in the effort to work vigorously to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans," said Bishop Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte, North Carolina. He noted with disappointment two refugee families scheduled to arrive in Charlotte the week of Jan. 30 have been turned away.

The Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities Jan. 29 voiced "strong opposition" to the president's immigration policy. "We stand in solidarity with other Catholic and higher education organizations that recognize the moral obligation of our country to assist migrants, particularly those who are fleeing any kind of persecution," the organization said.

Also opposing the memorandum were the Franciscan Action Network, Leadership Conference of Women Religious and PICO National Network.

One portion of Trump's executive memorandum -- the creation of safe zones for victims of Middle East conflict -- was welcomed by In Defense of Christians, a Washington-based advocacy group.

"The creation of these zones in the Middle East demonstrates a renewed commitment of U.S. leadership in the world, which will advance the national security and humanitarian interests of the U.S., Andrew Doran, the group's vice president and senior policy adviser, said in a statement.

In Defense of Christians said vulnerable groups in war-torn countries should be assisted in efforts to promote local security and governance that stabilize communities and protect civilians so that peace and reconciliation can occur.

The organization also called for implementation of improved security screening by U.S. agencies to ensure the safety of refugees and American citizens.

The International Organization for Migration and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Jan. 28 urged the U.S. to continue its leading role in resettling refugees, especially in a time when the needs of migrating people have never been greater.

"We strongly believe that refugees should receive equal treatment for protection and assistance, and opportunities for resettlement, regardless of their religion, nationality or race," the agencies said in a joint statement.

Members of Congress lined up primarily along political lines, with Democrats opposing the measures and most Republicans supporting them. About 20 Republicans voiced reservations about portions of the action, with some describing its potential to inspire terrorists overseas and its need to have been vetted more widely before implementation.

— Catholic News Service

 

In Jordan, Syrian refugees accepted by U.S. frustrated with Trump action

In Jordan, Syrian refugees accepted by U.S. frustrated with Trump action

013117 refugeesAMMAN, Jordan — Promised resettlement in the United States after escaping death and destruction in their homeland, many Syrian refugees are frustrated and angry over President Donald Trump's executive action banning their entry to the U.S. until further notice.

"We're frustrated. We were told that we were accepted for resettlement in the U.S., and now everything is at a standstill," a Syrian refugee woman told Catholic News Service, wiping away tears as she surveyed her crumbling home in the Jordanian capital.

"Neither the U.S. Embassy nor the International Organization for Migration have responded to our repeated telephone calls about our status or what to expect in the future," said the mother of four young children, whose family fled to Jordan in 2013 after their home was bombed. Rahma provided only her first name for fear of reprisal.

"If there is no longer any chance of being resettled in the U.S., then we would like to know whether we can apply somewhere else which will welcome us," she said.

The burden of not being able to work in Jordan over these past years has left Rahma's family desperate, unable to provide even the basic necessities of food and heating for the winter.

Refugee Abdel Hakim, a pharmacist from the southern Syrian town of Daraa, cannot contain his anger at seeing his dreams of starting a new life in the United States dashed. He and his family were far along in the approval process and expected to travel shortly from Jordan to the U.S. He called the measure "discriminatory and racist."

"In the beginning, we didn't want to leave Syria. But as it's been plunged deeper in war, we now find even the door to America has been slammed shut in our faces," he told CNS.

Trump's Jan. 27 presidential action ended indefinitely the entry of Syrian refugees to the U.S., pending a security review meant to ensure terrorists cannot slip through the vetting process. As well, it suspended the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days.

The action also slapped a 90-day ban on all entry to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries with terrorism concerns, including Syria. While Jordan is not on that list, the Middle East kingdom hosts more than 1.5 million refugees who have fled conflicts in neighboring Syria and Iraq, including flight from the so-called Islamic State militants.

"These dramatic and discriminatory policies will only harm, not help, U.S. interests and our national security," Jesuit Refugee Service-USA said in a statement criticizing the decision.

For the past 15 years, as waves of refugees fleeing the 2003 Gulf war, the Syrian civil war and those persecuted by Islamic State militants have flooded Jordan in search of a safe haven, Catholic and other churches have provided food, clothing, heating and other items, regardless of the refugees' religious background. International faith-based aid groups, such as Catholic Relief Service and Caritas, have been at the forefront of efforts helping refugees, mainly from Syria and Iraq, but also those who fled the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.

Resource-poor Jordan has struggled to provide water and electricity, education and health services to hundreds of thousands of refugees as the grinding conflicts in their homelands show little sign of ending. Many Syrian refugees accepted for U.S. resettlement have arrived from Jordan.

More than 27,000 Syrian refugees from 11 Middle Eastern host countries were under consideration for resettlement to the U.S. and in various stages of the approval process at the time of Trump's action, according to the International Organization for Migration, a U.N.-related agency that interviews and prepares refugees for resettlement.

Quickly, the measure sparked mass protests at U.S. airports and other venues, where people demanded its repeal. Angry demonstrators criticized the ban as completely contrary to America's ideals and its storied history of accepting immigrants fleeing persecution in search of a better life.

King Abdullah II of Jordan visited Washington Jan. 30, becoming the first Arab leader to meet members of the Trump administration, including Vice President Mike Pence and the secretaries of defense and homeland security.

The king raised the controversial bans in his talks, according to an official statement, which said he "emphasized that Muslims are the No. 1 victims" of Islamic terrorists, whom he called religious "outlaws" who "do not represent any faith or nationality."

King Abdullah will address the National Prayer Breakfast Feb. 2 and is expected to meet Trump.

The monarch is considered Washington's closest Arab ally battling the Islamic State as part of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria. Jordan hosts considerable U.S. military hardware and personnel, serving as a critical base for U.S. air operations against the Islamic State in Syria. It has also experienced deadly Islamic State attacks on its territory.

Jordan has also called the new administration's proposal to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem "a red line" that could evoke "catastrophic" consequences, including widespread violent unrest at home and in the region. Jordan is the custodian of Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem under a 1994 peace treaty with Israel, only one of two treaties the Jewish state has with Arab countries.

— Dale Gavlak, Catholic News Service