MIAMI —At the opening of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ general assembly on Wednesday, the conference president issued a statement condemning the Trump administration’s adoption of stricter asylum policies and its policy of family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life,” read the June 13 statement from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston. The bishops gathered at the spring plenary meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, 30 miles north of Miami, indicated their widespread assent to the statement.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a 31-page ruling June 11 indicating that domestic violence and gang violence are no longer grounds for seeking asylum in the U.S. He said that domestic abuse and gang violence claims alone should not be considered grounds for an asylum claim, unless there is also evidence of persecution by government actors based on one’s social group.
The BBC reports that around 10,000 people annually receive asylum in the U.S. due to domestic abuse or gang violence in their home countries.
Session’s decision “elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection,” Cardinal DiNardo stated.
“These vulnerable women will now face return to the extreme dangers of domestic violence in their home country. This decision negates decades of precedents that have provided protection to women.”
Cardinal DiNardo stated that “unless overturned, the decision will erode the capacity of asylum to save lives, particularly in cases that involve asylum seekers who are persecuted by private actors.”
The U.S. bishops urged both courts and policy makers “to respect and enhance, not erode, the potential of our asylum system to preserve and protect the right to life.”
The cardinal’s statement also discussed the Trump administration’s policy of separating minors from their parents who enter the U.S. illegally as part of its zero-tolerance policy.
“Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma.”
Because families are “the foundational element of our society,” they “must be able to stay together,” he reflected.
“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,” Cardinal DiNardo said.
“Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”