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April 30, 2017

Funding a humanitarian approach to migrants and refugees

Cardinal Cupich’s Schedule

  1. May 1: 7 p.m., Confirmation, Assumption Blessed Virgin Mary Church, Chicago
  2. May 2: noon, Cardinal’s annual meeting with leadership of men and women religious, St. Giles Church, Oak Park
  3. May 6: 9 a.m., Archdiocesan Pastoral Council executive meeting, Quigley, Chicago; 1 p.m., Blessing of Mundelein Hall, University of St Mary of the Lake, Mundelein; 1:30 p.m., Convocation, University of St. Mary of the Lake, Auditorium, Mundelein
  4. May 7: 2 p.m., Catholic Charities 100th Anniversary Mass of Thanksgiving, Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago
  5. May 8: 6 p.m., Archdiocesan immigration ministry benefit “Keep Hope Alive,” St. Ignatius College Prep, Chicago
  6. May 9: 10 a.m., Episcopal Council; 7 p.m., Adult confirmation, Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago
  7. May 11: 10 a.m., Presbyteral Council, DePaul O’Hare Campus, Chicago
  8. May 12: 10 a.m., Mass for graduates of Northwestern Law School, St. James Chapel, Chicago
  9. May 13: 10 a.m., Diaconate ordination, Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago; 4 p.m., Reception, Knights and Ladies of St. Peter Claver, South Shore Cultural Center, Chicago
Archbishop Cupich's Coat of Arms

On April 5, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, who represents the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as chairman of the Committee on Migration, offered a comprehensive overview of where the bishops stand in a letter to members of Congress. In that text, he advocated for a budget that reflects the values of our country, especially when it comes to the treatment of migrants and refugees. “Specifically this means,” he said, “funding programs that protect the human life and dignity of immigrants, refugees, unaccompanied children and trafficking victims.”

Among other things, he pointed to the need to provide “overseas assistance to displaced refugees and support lifesaving services in humanitarian emergencies, while stabilizing refugee host countries in sensitive regions.” The escalating violence and instability in many parts of the world are placing increased demands on programs already in need of funding, particularly with the “crises in Syria and Iraq, but also in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Burma and Central American countries.”

As Catholics we can be proud of the work being done by Catholic Relief Services, which administers many of these programs that meet the needs of internally displaced persons. “This is one way to prevent them from fleeing their countries of origin and becoming refugees,” Bishop Vásquez wrote. “It is a true life-saving program, providing food for many individuals in areas of famine. We believe our suggested level of funding would better enable the United States to assist those who are displaced within their own countries.”

When it comes to issues related to immigration into our own country, the bishops of the United States also have called for shifting resources when it comes to protecting our borders. As Bishop Vásquez pointed out, “the Catholic Church acknowledges the right of nations to control their borders and a government’s responsibility to protect the people within their borders.” Yet, “those rights and responsibilities should be exercised in a manner that is consistent with their moral obligation to protect the humanitarian needs of migrants and refugees. Wealthier nations have a stronger obligation to accommodate those needs and can do so in a manner that does not jeopardize the safety of its people.”

It is these humanitarian needs that should receive priority, rather than “a further massive security buildup on the U.S./Mexico border and increased use of immigrant detention,” as Bishop Vásquez wrote. Arguing that such measures are not appropriate, he continues, the bishops of the United States “do not believe that such resources need to be or should be invested in a border wall or in more detention facilities. Instead, we believe that some of this funding should be dedicated to humane and more economical programs, such as alternatives to detention programs that utilize case management, legal services, and safe voluntary repatriation programs. In short, as Pope Francis has often repeated, we should be building bridges, not walls.”

From time to time I will provide more updates on the efforts of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to advocate for just and humane policies, especially with respect to budget priorities. This brief summary of Bishop Vásquez’s letter, however, gives a snapshot of what the bishops are thinking and advocating, and I hope it provides some encouragement to the many immigrant families living in Chicagoland and worshipping in our parishes, all members of the one Body of Christ.