Amid reports of an imminent executive order to halt most refugee resettlement in the U.S., one international Catholic charitable group is speaking out.
“When we look at what’s happening in Syria and the needs of 21
million refugees around the world, we think that this is our time as
Catholics to be the Good Samaritan, regardless of what is expected of us
from countries overseas,” Jill Maria Gershutz-Bell, senior legislative
specialist at Catholic Relief Services, told CNA of the proposed order.
“It’s our turn to show – or really, to maintain – our leadership in
welcoming the lost and the least,” she continued, saying CRS was “very
concerned” about the reported executive order.
President Donald Trump will reportedly sign an executive order this
week halting the influx of refugees into the U.S., except in the cases
of religious minorities fleeing persecution. He could also be suspending
visas issued to persons from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan,
The temporary ban could last four months, and presidential approval could be required to renew refugee resettlement from Syria.
The reports came the same day as Trump signed executive orders
directing that a wall be built on the U.S.-Mexico border, “sanctuary
cities” harboring undocumented immigrants be barred from federal funds,
and deportations be sped up.
Americans must remember that refugees “are victims” themselves, Gershutz-Bell insisted.
The number of persons worldwide displaced from their homes is at its
highest ever recorded at over 65 million, including over 21 million
refugees, according to the United Nations’ refugee office in a 2016
“Wars and persecution” have caused massive numbers of people to flee
their homes, including a years-long civil war in Syria, and conflicts in
the South Sudan, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and Yemen.
Three countries have produced half the world’s refugees, the UN
noted: Syria (4.9 million), Somalia (1.1 million), and Afghanistan (2.7
million). Two of those countries, Syria and Somalia, would be on Trump’s
reported visa ban list.
Refugees “need to have the opportunity to demonstrate that they don’t
intend any harm to the United Sates, but in fact they’re fleeing the
same kind of violence that we’re trying to protect ourselves from,”
Accepting and resettling refugees is part of the Catholic mission, she added.
“Pope Francis has been unequivocal about this, and the Catholic
Church in the United States has been a leader in responding to refugees
for really decades now. It’s part of what it means to be Catholic,”
Gershutz-Bell told CNA.
Catholic University of America president John Garvey also spoke out
against policies restricting immigration in an op-ed on Tuesday, calling
for “an immigration policy rooted in charity and hospitality.”
“We should ‘welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the
means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin,’” he
said, quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2241. “And
nations should respect the natural right ‘that places a guest under the
protection of those who receive him’,” he continued.
“This generous approach to immigration is neither politically
expedient nor free of risk,” he noted. “Many citizens have argued in
good faith for a more restrictive policy. But would you not love and
admire a country that opened its doors to the tired, the poor, the
wretched and the homeless, even if they could not promise it a fair
return for its hospitality?”
CRS also reported “indications” that another executive order might
direct the State Department and the Defense Department to set up “safe
zones” for refugees in and around the Syrian conflict.
“We have really serious concerns about that. The details of a safe
zone and how that would be implemented would be critical,” Gershutz-Bell
said. “They can actually end up putting targets on the backs of
civilians if they’re not carefully executed.”