MIAMI (CBSMiami) – More than 300 Catholic bishops from across the United States gathered in Fort Lauderdale Wednesday for their Spring Assembly.
At the meeting, they made a major announcement regarding the Trump Administration’s immigration policy, specifically regarding a significant limitation on people claiming asylum.
The statement, read by Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield on behalf of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, said the Bishops’ feel that Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to limit asylum seekers from trying to stay in the US will have a chilling effect on women particularly.
“These vulnerable women will now face return to the extreme dangers of domestic violence in their home country. This decision negates decades of precedence that have provided protection to women fleeing domestic violence,” Blandsfield read.
The Bishops also said that the Trump Administration’s policy of separating parents from their children at the US Mexico border needs to stop.
“Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma,” he said. “Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together.
“Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral,” Blansfield said.
After the statement was read, Cardinal DiNardo asked the crowd of Bishops, “Brothers do I have your support for this statement?” Applause rang out.
But Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in an interview several days ago that it’s a matter of law.
“That’s why they’re separated,” she said. “They’re breaking the law. They’re coming across the border and they’re breaking the law. In the United States, if you break the law, you go to jail and you’re separated from your family.”
Thomas Wenski is the Archbishop of Miami. He says the church should urge Catholics to vote for candidates who want fair and humane immigration reform.
“We have to tell our parishioners to call them out and hold them accountable,” Wenski said.
Wenski says these policies are misguided.
“We have to make America great as our President says but we’re not going to make America great by making America mean,” Wenski added.
And one US Bishop from Arizona, Edward Weisenburger, is making an even stronger suggestion.
He suggested any Catholics involved in separating children from their parents might be stripped of their ability to receive the sacraments or possibly be excommunicated from the church.
CBS 4 News reached out to a number of South Florida legislators for a comment on the Bishops’ statement. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz responded:
“The Catholic Bishops gathered in Fort Lauderdale Speak for the vast majority of Americans who are horrified by President Trump’s cruel and immoral immigration policies. Separating children from their parents, and refusing asylum to women seeking refuge from domestic violence is not just dangerous, it is monstrous and inhumane.”