Central America Migration Caravan

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by Martin Barillas  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  December 1, 2020   

Biden's 'open door' pledge a dilemma for Catholic bishops

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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - Should he be inaugurated in January, Democrat Joe Biden promises to offer a "pathway to citizenship" for the millions of illegal immigrants currently living in the United States and a mechanism for millions more to enter the country. While U.S. Catholic bishops have congratulated him and validated some of his plans, the professedly Catholic Biden's position on abortion presents the prelates with a dilemma.

Biden, who based his campaign largely on personal attacks on President Donald Trump rather than outlining the policies he would follow as president, told NBC News on Nov. 25, "I will send an immigration bill to the U.S. Senate with a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people in America." Speaking with NBC's Lester Holt, he noted that he will need support from Congress to advance his pro-immigration posture.

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One of many facilities used to
temporarily hold illegal aliens

Biden would eliminate many of Trump's executive orders (of which 400 dealt with immigration) but reinstate the Obama administration's Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that was created to shield so-called Dreamers: Illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as children, who, in some cases, have been afforded access to free tuition at state universities. According to the Center for Migration Policy, there are some 2.2 million Dreamers now residing in the United States.

In 2018, Trump unveiled the "four pillars" of a plan to "protect Americans." This included building a border wall, eliminating the visa lottery, ending extended-family chain migration and, at the same time, legalizing 1.8 million illegal immigrants, including Dreamers. At the time, Bp. Joe Vásquez (who chaired the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' committee on migration) denounced Trump's plan, saying, "Upholding and protecting the family unit, regardless of its national origins, is vital to our Faith."

"In searching for a solution for Dreamers," Vásquez added, "we must not turn our backs on the vulnerable. We should not ... barter the well-being of unaccompanied children for the well-being of the Dreamers."

Rivers have burst their banks, and landslides are hampering access to affected people.

Biden would preserve "temporary protected status" (TPS) for immigrants who fled their countries following natural disasters or armed conflicts. The Trump administration began phasing out widespread TPS in 2018 for the 300,000+ immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan. Biden wants to extend TPS to exiles fleeing socialist Venezuela.

In addition, Biden has promised to reunite more than 500 minors currently detained at the southern U.S. border and would increase the number of refugee admissions to 125,000 from the ceiling of 15,000 set for fiscal year 2021 by the Trump administration.

Central America is home to some of the poorest people on the planet, people who have been beset by decades of misgovernment, foreign intervention, economic and social inequity, natural disasters and violent Marxist insurgencies. This year, the region was buffeted by Hurricane Eta, a category 4 storm that was followed by the category 5 Hurricane Iota, affecting some 3.4 million people, according to ReliefWeb. Humanitarian groups and government agencies are offering aid; meanwhile, reports are surfacing of violence, family separation, overcrowding and dire conditions in shelters, as well as limited access to food, water and security. Rivers have burst their banks, and landslides are hampering access to affected people.

Large, organized groups of emigrants began heading north in several waves in 2018 and 2019, challenging Trump's emphasis on border security. Thousands of migrants are waiting along the U.S.Mexico border awaiting entry to the United States, pending the results of the election and court decisions. Even before the November hurricanes, Guatemala was preparing for thousands of migrants from neighboring Honduras, who planned to head to the United States. On Oct. 1, for instance, 4,000 Hondurans entered Guatemala after evading a military checkpoint and sanitary controls.

According to Americas Quarterly, a Council of the Americas publication founded by plutocrat David Rockefeller, "Heading north will continue to be seen as an option." Predicting that a Biden administration would treat "migrants and asylum-seekers with dignity," it acknowledged, "Recent experience has taught us that changing U.S. policies sends powerful signals to would-be migrants — and to their smugglers."

Recent experience has taught us that changing U.S. policies sends powerful signals to would-be migrants — and to their smugglers.

The article quoted Scalabrinian sister Nyzelle Juliana Dondé, who leads relief efforts by the bishops of Honduras. "Migrants will continue leaving Honduras because of the lack of work and the widespread violence," she suggested, calculating that 600,000 unemployed people will be the next migrants to hit the road. Before the two hurricanes hit, some 3,500 Hondurans entered Guatemala, prompting the Catholic Church there to respond with aid. However, most were deported after being stopped by Guatemalan authorities. According to Catholic News Service, Dondé said, "It's a matter of survival," adding, "So what people want and what they're anxious for is a better life, and [they] only look toward the United States."

As Hurricane Iota smashed into the Central American isthmus, Guatemalan president Alejandro Giammattei said on Nov. 17 that more foreign aid is needed to avoid further caravans: "If we don't want hordes of Central Americans heading toward countries with better living conditions, we have to create walls of prosperity in Central America."

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Bp. Joe Vásquez

"Physical walls cannot stop people's need," Giammattei added. "Human development cannot be achieved simply with speeches. It must be achieved with action that comes from the industrialized nations."

The U.S. Agency for International Development is providing some $35 million in relief to Central America in the wake of the hurricanes.

Mexican-born USCCB president José Horacio Gomez, archbishop of Los Angeles, said at the close of the bishops' annual meeting on Nov. 17 that having a Catholic in the White House "presents certain opportunities but also certain challenges." Gomez acknowledged that while Biden can be relied upon to pursue the bishops' emphases on immigration reform and poverty amelioration, the professedly Catholic former vice president's strong support of abortion and his opposition to the Hyde Amendment — which bars federal funding of abortion — is "against some fundamental values we hold dear as Catholics."

"The president-elect has given us reason to believe that his faith commitments will move him to support some good policies," Gomez said. "This includes policies of immigration reform, [for] refugees and the poor, and against racism, the death penalty and climate change."

"He has also given us reason to believe that he will support policies that are against some fundamental values that we hold dear as Catholics," he added. "These policies include the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and the preservation of Roe v. Wade. Both of these policies undermine our preeminent priority of the elimination of abortion."

Nonetheless, Gomez congratulated Biden, as did Pope Francis, following the Nov. 3 election. While some Catholic clerics and laity have suggested that Biden should be denied the Eucharist because of his support for abortion, Cdl. Wilton Gregory, who presides over the archdiocese of Washington, D.C., has remarked that he would not deny the sacrament to Biden. Likewise, Cdl. Timothy Dolan of New York said in 2019 that he would not have denied Biden the Eucharist. Notably, a priest in South Carolina denied Biden access that year.

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