By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Speaking on Wednesday, to the US Bishops gathered in Ft Lauderdale, FL for their annual Spring General Assembly, the Conference’s Vice-President, Archbishop José Gomez updated the Bishops on a recent US immigration policy being implemented on the US border with Mexico.
Archbishop Gomez reported that in March 2017 it was learned that the US government was considering the possibility of separating families arriving at its border.
At one time, families were held together in a detention facility, or were released with one member of the family wearing an ankle monitor. Archbishop Gomez said that from May 3-18 “over 640 families were separated”. Approximately 55-65 children are being separated from their parents on a daily basis at the border at a cost to US taxpayers of $585 per night to “detain a parent with two children.” Parents are placed in the custody of US Marshalls, while the children are declared “unaccompanied” and placed in the Office of Refugee Resettlement under the US government’s Health and Human Services.
Agonizing scenes at the border
The implementation of this new policy, has led, as we know, to agonizing scenes at the border of anguished parents and terrified children.
Archbishop Gomez continued saying that the policy has been adopted by the Administration as a deterrent to immigration. The message according to the Attorney General is, “if you don’t want your child separated, then do not bring them across the border illegally”.
Separation is proven to cause trauma
With a statement on 1 June, the US Bishops stated that the policy of forcibly separating families is ineffective and “contrary to Catholic values”. “Rupturing the bond between parent and child causes scientifically proven trauma that often leads to irreparable emotional scarring”, the Archbishop said.
There is a need to secure the nation’s borders, but separating families does not respond to that security concern, the Archbishop said. It also does not address the root causes of immigration in the countries of origin, namely “community or state-sanctioned violence, gang recruitment, poverty, and a lack of education opportunities for children”.
US Bishops brief Congress
The US Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services coordinated a briefing with members of Congress “to examine the humanitarian, moral and policy concerns with this practice”. They also released an “educational resource on family separation, discussing the negative impacts of the practice on families, the cost to US taxpayers, and the burden on our judicial system”.