Sunday, June 16, 2024

Bishops ‘deeply disturbed’ by latest US immigration restrictions

President Joe Biden announced a new policy to restrict the number of asylum applications from undocumented migrants coming across the US southern border. 

Advocates for migrants, including the US Catholic bishops, voiced concerns about the new policy, which will likely face challenges in the courts.

Under the new policy, whenever the number of encounters with non-citizens exceeds a seven-day average of 7,500, further asylum applications will be temporarily suspended. 

New claims can only begin again once the average drops to 1,500, where it stood in 2020.

“We are deeply disturbed by this disregard for fundamental humanitarian protections and US asylum law,” said Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, chair of the bishop’s committee on migration.

“There is a crisis of conscience at the US-Mexico border. When vulnerable families seeking safety and the means for a dignified life are labelled ‘invaders’ or ‘illegals’, terms that mask their humanity, we have strayed from the path of righteousness, succumbed to our fear of the ‘other’, and forsaken the values upon which our nation was founded.”

The new policy runs counter to provisions of the Refugee Act of 1980, which brought the US into compliance with international legal obligations, specifically enacting the principle of non-refoulementnot returning migrants to their home countries if they face danger of persecution or torture.

The Biden administration, relying on legal authority before the enactment of the 1980 law, said the new policy was necessary because Congress had failed to enact bipartisan immigration reforms. 

Former president Donald Trump urged Republicans to reject those measures when Congress was close to reaching an historic compromise early this year.

“As defenders of human life and dignity, which we hold sacred and inviolable from the moment of conception, we cannot accept unjust conditions on the right to migrate for those fleeing life-threatening situations,” Seitz added.

“We especially worry for those compelled by these policies to traverse more treacherous terrain, further endangering their lives and the lives of Border Patrol agents.”