Supreme Knight Carl Anderson announced the migrant initiative last week at the Catholic fraternal organization's 137th Supreme Convention in Minneapolis.
"We are prepared to commit at least $250,000 immediately in humanitarian aid for refugees to the Southern Border," he said. "We are prepared to expand it, with additional resources, to help those in refugee camps in every border state — including Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California."
"As Catholic men and family men, we are all deeply concerned for the plight of the refugees who have fled their homelands into ours," said Anderson. "Their need is great — but the compassion of our Brother Knights is greater still."
"Let me be clear: This is not a political statement. This is a statement of principle," Anderson continued.
"This is about helping people who need our help right now," he added. "It is a natural and necessary extension of our support for refugees across the world. It shows our nation and the world that where there is a need, there is a Knight to answer it. And on our Southern Border, the Knights of Columbus will be there."
But some argue that Anderson's statement was implicitly political. They point to his use of the term "refugee" to describe all those along the southern border attempting to enter the United States illegally.
"Refugee," they note, has very specific political connotations. The 1951 Geneva Convention, regarded as the foundation of the international refugee system, defines a refugee as "someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion."
Meanwhile, the term "migrant" — which generally elicits less public sympathy — describes a person whose primary motivation in migrating is economic.
According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Migrants, "The term 'migrant' ... should be understood as covering all cases where the decision to migrate is taken freely by the individual concerned, for reasons of 'personal convenience' and without intervention of an external compelling factor."
The caravans that began streaming toward the United States in 2018 may include refugees, but the vast majority of members are economic migrants. As the National Conference of State Legislatures notes: "Economic hardship has driven migration from Central America."
Whether or not Anderson's phrasing was an accidental conflation, by directing hundreds of thousands of dollars to support those trying to enter the country illegally, the Knights of Columbus is knowingly stepping into a political firestorm.
Since President Donald Trump took power in January 2017, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has issued statement after statement on immigration — each one excoriating the administration's policies on border security, sanctuary cities and deportation of illegal entrants.
Every year since 1975, the government has funneled tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to the USCCB for migrant and refugee services. Yearly totals exploded under Obama and are now a huge share of the USCCB's annual budget:
Critics suggest that in adopting the bishops' immigration ethic — however subtly — the Knights of Columbus is continuing its drift to the Left.
They note that the Knights has been a big supporter of leftist Catholic media, including Crux magazine and Canada's Salt + Light TV, founded by pro-gay plagiarist priest Fr. Thomas Rosica, and that the group refused to punish members who, through their legislative work, helped preserve abortion laws and to legalize same-sex "marriage."
In 2011, Church Militant's Michael Voris announced he could no longer in good conscience continue his membership in the organization:
I, like so many others, have concluded that the Knights of Columbus, on the national and some state levels, is nothing more than a business that does its work under the banner of the Catholic Church, with no real sense of attachment to the teachings of the Faith, or any strong desire to be faithful.
Though applauding the good work of many local councils and the faithfulness of myriad individual knights, Voris observed: "The Knights' national leadership appears to be much more interested in protecting and promoting their extremely lucrative insurance business rather than advancing the causes and teachings of Holy Mother Church."