Protection urged for nation’s ‘vulnerable,’ especially migrants, refugees

A boy in Mexico looks through the border fence at Border Field State Park in San Diego Nov. 18. The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a message for Thanksgiving urged protection for immigrants and refugees. -CNS photo | Mike Blake, Reuters

WASHINGTON (CNS) — As the nation made preparations to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed gratitude for “the gift of immigrants and refugees to the country,” but also appealed for their protection.

“As we do every year, we will pause this coming Thursday to thank God for the many blessings we enjoy in the United States,” Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said in a statement Nov. 20, a week after the U.S. bishops opened their annual fall assembly.

The longest and most passionate discussion on the first day of the fall assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Nov. 13 focused on immigrants, on how to help them but also how to drive home the point that they, too, are our brothers and sisters and should not be demonized.

Cardinal DiNardo said his Thanksgiving Day statement was prompted by the bishops urging he “speak out on their behalf.”

He referenced that floor discussion, noting that he and his brother bishops “were attentive in a special way to those who are often excluded from this (nation’s) great abundance — the poor, the sick, the addicted, the unborn, the unemployed and especially migrants and refugees.”

The bishops “expressed a shared and ever-greater sense of alarm — and urgency to act — in the face of policies that seemed unthinkable only a short time ago,” he said.

Those policies, Cardinal DiNardo said, include the deportation of “Dreamers,” the beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. These are “young hard-working people who should be the lowest priority for deportation,” he said.

President Donald Trump in September ended the Obama-era program and directed Congress to pass a legislative solution.

Cardinal DiNardo also described “the anxiety and uncertainty of those with Temporary Protected Status from countries like Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras, which are still recovering from natural disasters and remain ill-equipped to humanely receive and integrate them.”

The Trump administration in early November announced an end to TPS for 2,500 Nicaraguans who have been living in the United States for nearly 20 years. A decision on TPS for 57,000 Hondurans has been delayed for six months; a decision for Salvadorans is expected soon.