Migrant Surge at the Border, Paid Family Leave, and Faith on Campus

On EWTN News In Depth, host Montse Alvarado talks to experts about what’s behind a surge of migrants and refugees at the U.S.-Mexico border and examines the impact of the pandemic on women in the workforce.

Archbishop José Gomez talks about the Church’s teaching on immigration, working with the Biden administration and growing secularism in the U.S. on the March 26 episode of EWTN News In Depth
Archbishop José Gomez talks about the Church’s teaching on immigration, working with the Biden administration and growing secularism in the U.S. on the March 26 episode of EWTN News In Depth (photo: EWTN)

As the United States’ Border Patrol deals with a surge of immigrants in the south, EWTN News In Depth host Montse Alvarado interviews one of the country’s top Catholic leaders, the president of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference Archbishop José Gomez. The archbishop and Alvarado, both naturalized citizens from Mexico, discussed the Biden administration and immigration reform in the March 26 episode. Then an expert panel gave deeper insight into the story behind the numbers and how Catholic dioceses and organizations are heavily involved in support for vulnerable families.

Key Take-Aways: 

  • Although the U.S. border is currently closed to immigrants at the southern border, the U.S. Border Patrol has counted 29,000 unaccompanied minors since Oct. 1 — the same number detained over the entire previous budget year. The Biden administration is considering sending aid to Mexico and other countries whose populations are fleeing to the U.S. to try to address the root cause of the influx.
  • Archbishop Gomez clarifies that Catholic teaching includes a country’s right to protect its borders
  • Latino immigrants comprise more than half of Catholics under age 18, he points out, so Catholics should see immigrant populations as a gift and an opportunity for the Church in the United States.
  • Seventy percent of the students in Catholic schools in Los Angeles are minorities who receive government assistance, which reinforces the importance of Catholic schools being able to receive public funding — a right that the Supreme Court decided to protect this past year.

Watch the Interview:

The Wrap from the Experts: Alvarado led the discussion with Catholic immigration policy experts and leaders about what has caused the influx of immigrants at the U.S.- Mexico border and how Catholics are deeply involved in efforts to care for migrants and refugees there.

Here’s the wrap:

From Cardinal Michael Czerny (Migration and Refugee Services, Holy See Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development):

  • What are the main causes of the high migration to the U.S.? The majority of people migrate (or attempt to migrate) freely because they are attracted to a better life, but a small minority flee their nations because of danger, grinding poverty, persecution, war, etc.
  • What attitude should Catholics have toward migrants? We are always called to open the door of our self to “the other” as a form of sharing the good news of our brotherhood and sisterhood. This is the message of Fratelli Tutti, the Pope’s encyclical from October 2020. 
  • How do migrants contribute to American society and parish life? Migrants are on average more enterprising — they contribute to local economies, start businesses, etc. They also tend to become active participants in their parishes, something that is often overlooked.

From Matthew Bunson (EWTN Washington Bureau Chief):

  • A bipartisan immigration reform bill introduced by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), similar to previous efforts in the Senate, is unlikely to pass. Still, U.S. Catholic bishops support smaller pieces of legislation to tackle problems at the border that are on the table in the House of Representatives. 
  • Vice President Kamala Harris has been named head of the national security initiative to address border security. A vice president taking the lead is not new or surprising; Biden held an identical role during the Obama administration.

From Jennifer Allmon (Executive Director, Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops):

  • How are Catholics helping out? The Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, is paying for hotel rooms to house hundreds of families allowed through the border daily while they quarantine before COVID-19 testing. A diocesan shelter for migrants and refugees (98% of whom are Catholic) is the first stop for those who enter the U.S. near the Rio Grande Valley.
  • What are other factors to consider? The current spike in migration is mostly due to the temperate spring weather, an annual occurrence, but it may also be a test of the new presidential administration’s border security. It’s also coming from a backlog of tens of thousands of Central American asylum seekers who have been detained in camping tents and Catholic shelters near the border in northern Mexico under former President Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which was lifted when President Biden entered office.

Psst … reminder, please! What was the “Remain in Mexico” Policy?

The policy required all asylum seekers, including refugees, to wait outside the U.S. for up to 18 months until their claim could be processed, which caused a humanitarian crisis at the border in Mexico. 

Not good for Mexico. So how did that affect vulnerable families?

During this period, nearly 30,000 refugee asylum seekers, for the most part unaware of their court date, received a “deportation” order without ever setting foot in the United States. About 85% of these were parents and young children who had no access to legal counsel, which is more available inside the U.S. The Biden administration immediately allowed the refugee families, about 15,000 people, to enter the U.S. to await the processing of their asylum request in safer, more humane conditions.

Also on EWTN News In Depth: Status Report on Paid Family Leave 

Two million women have dropped out of the workforce and taken an economic hit during the global pandemic — often because of a lack of childcare and the demands of distance learning or homeschooling, reports News In Depth’s Kate Scanlon. 

Watch the Segment:

What’s Happening: The U.S. is the only developed country without a national paid parental leave policy for growing families, according to the Pew Research Center. Catholics in some places, like Baltimore, are advocating for their state to join a growing list of states (currently 17) that have passed a statewide paid leave bill in recent years to help keep families out of poverty and homelessness. 

Why It Matters: Adoptive and Foster Parents Face Unpredictability.  “Foster care … placements could happen in the middle of the night. With adoption you could have to travel several states away. … My son was born with a heart defect and had to have emergency surgery while we were … living in a different state.” —Leigh Fitzpatrick Snead (Fellow, The Catholic Association)

It’s a Pro-Life Issue. There are a number of pro-life arguments that have been raised in favor of … this type of a program. We can look for example at the way it potentially incentivizes having children, potentially builds a workplace that encourages family life. ... It can strengthen family life generationally, which is something that Pope Francis has stressed, but again we have to be focused on the prudence of these proposals ... whether they’re going to create economic problems for [families] in the long term. —Matthew Bunson (EWTN Washington Bureau Chief)

On the other hand, National Paid Leave Programs Require Higher Payroll Taxes and other Tradeoffs.  “Very often the proposals (for a paid leave policy at the federal level) are unrealistic about the actual cost to employees. ... In countries that have adopted generous paid leave proposals, we see the beneficiaries suffering from fewer hours of employment, lower growth in wages over time, and all sorts of things that are not as visible and yet they matter tremendously.” —Veronique de Rugy (Adjunct Scholar, Cato Institute)

And More on the March 26 Episode:

Faith on Campus. EWTN News In-Depth honors Mother Angelica, the founder of the Global Catholic Network, with a look at her impact on campus ministry initiatives.

Watch the full show: