June 18, 2018
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We are hundreds of miles from the border, yet what has happened along the US-Mexico border over the past few weeks has a direct impact on many of our own people. Images of crying children, separated from their mothers, and the anguish of mothers whose infants have been taken from their arms has increased the anxiety and fear of mothers and children living here in many of our parishes and neighborhoods. I write to assure you that we stand with you, that we support Church efforts to keep families together and to reunite those that have been separated.
The separation of detained minor children from their parents is un-American, un-Christian and inhumane. This practice is mean-spirited and betrays our nation’s tradition of welcome to migrants and refugees. Coupled with this, the United State’s Attorney General’s decision to deny welcome to victims of domestic and gang violence is a further betrayal of the values that have until now characterized the immigration policy of the United States. The Attorney General’s attempt to justify these actions by citing Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans is a final betrayal of millennia-old principles. Blind obedience to the state has never been the mark of our democracy, which has historically been characterized by civil discourse and compromise.
Indeed, early Christians were often at odds with secular society and the government. When questioned about allegiance to the Roman Empire, Jesus instructed his followers to “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but to God, the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). As the Christian message began to take hold, early communities of believers found themselves in deep conflict with the Roman government. Thus, it is a perversion of Scripture to teach that God’s people must blindly obey the government, even when the government is enacting unjust laws. We believe that the Department of Homeland Security’s barbaric practice of separating children from their parents is void of justice, charity and compassion. This policy must be vigorously opposed. As Saint Augustine taught, “An unjust law is no law at all.”
We cannot lose what is at the heart of this tragedy: the fact there are children and families in the crosshairs of our government’s actions and that the trauma that these children suffer will have long term effects on their spiritual, emotional and physical well-being.
We encourage Congress to fix our broken immigration system, to honor promises made to children who were brought to the United States (“DACA recipients”), and to include the good of families in their deliberations.
In closing, let us all remember the words addressed to the Israelites on their desert journey: “You shall not oppress a resident alien; you well know how it feels to be an alien, since you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9). And let us treat with compassion those who today knock on the doors of our hearts.
With every best wish and kind regard, I remain,
Patrick J. McGrath
Bishop of San Jose