Bishop denounces family separation at border, shows solidarity with detainees
By Alexandra Mendoza
OTAY MESA — When Jesus was born He was hunted by the government, forcing His family to flee the country and seek refuge, Bishop Robert W. McElroy told an estimated 1,000 people who gathered outside the gate of a federal detention facility.
“I grieve because I think of the fact that if Mary, Joseph and Jesus had come to our border last week as refugees, the child Jesus would have been ripped from their arms and put in a cage,” he told them.
On June 23, Bishop McElroy and Auxiliary Bishop John P. Dolan joined dozens of faith leaders from across California who rallied outside the Otay Mesa Detention Center, where immigrants are held, to support families that had been separated after entering the country illegally.
The demonstration came three days after President Donald Trump issued an executive order halting the practice of separating the families after searing photos and audio recordings of desperate, crying children sparked widespread public outrage.
The order, however, continues the president’s “zero tolerance” policy, which calls for the criminal prosecution of anyone entering unlawfully into the U.S. The Pentagon announced that it was preparing to build temporary camps for detained immigrants at two military bases to house as many as 20,000.
Immigration authorities struggled, meanwhile, to explain how they were going to reunite 2,300 children in their custody with their parents.
The issue of immigration is a deeply divisive one, differences sharpened in recent years by the pronouncements of then-candidate Trump and his actions as president.
Based on Catholic theology and social teaching, U.S. bishops have consistently called for the humane treatment of immigrants, regardless of their legal status. On June 13, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops denounced the policy of separating families and again urged comprehensive immigration reform.
“Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo. “While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”
Bishop McElroy echoed those themes at the rally outside the detention center.
“We must understand the dignity of every single human person,” said Bishop McElroy. “That all of us together are brothers and sisters, and that is the foundational assertion of who we are as a people and what we believe.”
Working through Catholic Charities, the Diocese of San Diego is helping Dreamers renew their DACA permits, helping families to prepare for possible detention or deportation (particularly important for undocumented parents with U.S.-born children); and providing legal support for migrants in detention or in deportation proceedings.