"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free"
That, of course, is the message on our Statue of Liberty. It has been violated bluntly and stupidly by President Donald Trump's executive order limiting refugees from seven countries in the Middle East and Africa.
People who had already been vetted thoroughly were detained at airports for hours because they were born in the wrong country. Some were put on return flights. And many in those seven countries named by Trump were not allowed to board flights they had booked.
Jesus would have loved the message on the Statue of Liberty. He said, "Whatever you do for the least of these, you do unto me." He welcomed the tired and the poor and the refugee. And I am reminded that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were refugees in the land of Egypt to escape the clutches of Herod. What if Egypt had refused them entry? (They had not been "vetted" at all, but they were admitted — whatever that meant in those days.)
I am appalled by Donald Trump's latest move. It violates our deeply held American beliefs as well as the basic tenets of the Gospel.
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It's fine to "vet" those who want to come to this country. But there is already a vetting process and the people detained at airports had met its requirements under a long and arduous system set up under the Obama administration. In other words, they had been "cleared" to enter the U.S., and then discovered that they were on Trump's special list of countries. Thank God for the thousands of demonstrators who rallied in support of them at airports around the country. They had an impact, as lawyers joined them and worked to free those detained.
Now I want to hear from the Catholic bishops — loud and clear. Not just a press release. I want to hear bold, public statements denouncing this move by Trump. The bishops have long been positive in welcoming immigrants and defending their rights; now is the time for them to shout out what they believe.
I note that many pastors and rabbis have already denounced this Trump order. And of course for Jews, this stirs memories of the late 1930s, when the U.S. refused entry to Jews who later went on to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps.
It is past time for the Catholic bishops to speak out against Trump's policies, and this is their opportunity to prove that they put morality ahead of politics.