The Trump administration’s new border and immigration enforcement rules needlessly endanger the vulnerable, militarize the border and will cause many other problems, the U.S. bishops warned this week.
“They greatly expand the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, who wrote the bishops’ Feb. 23 response.
On Feb. 20, the Department of Homeland Security issued two memoranda to implement President Donald Trump’s executive orders regarding immigration enforcement on the border and in the U.S. interior.
“Taken together, these memoranda constitute the establishment of a large-scale enforcement system that targets virtually all undocumented migrants as ‘priorities’ for deportation, thus prioritizing no one,” Bishop Vasquez said.
Important protections for the vulnerable, including unaccompanied children and asylum seekers, have been removed from federal policy, the bishop said.
The memoranda promote the use of local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law. This disregards “existing relationships of trust” between local law enforcement officials and immigrant communities, he said.
“The engagement of local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law can undermine public safety by making many who live in immigrant communities fearful of cooperating with local law enforcement in both reporting and investigating criminal matters.”
In addition, the rules aim to publicize crimes by undocumented immigrants, to erect new detention facilities, and to speed up deportations, the New York Times reports. Administration officials said that those brought to the U.S. as young children will not be targeted. However, parents living without documentation in the U.S. who smuggle their children into the country could face deportation or prosecution for smuggling or human trafficking.
Bishop Vasquez urged the Trump administration to reconsider its approach in the memoranda and in its executive orders.
“Together, these have placed already vulnerable immigrants among us in an even greater state of vulnerability,” he added.
He voiced the U.S. bishops’ commitment “to care for and respect the human dignity of all, regardless of their immigration status.”
“During this unsettling time, we will redouble our work to accompany and protect our immigrant brothers and sisters and recognize their contributions and inherent dignity as children of God,” he said.