National News

Bishop Testifies on Immigration As President Seeks to Change Asylum

By Rhina Guidos

President Donald Trump speaks at the White House March 21. (Photo Catholic News Service/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – In a memo released late April 29, President Donald Trump ordered changes for how refugees may apply for asylum to the U.S., requesting an application fee from asylum-seekers and denying them permission to work depending on how the applicant entered the country. Though the changes are not immediate, he gave administration officials 90 days to work on new regulations.

In the memo addressed to the U.S. Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security, President Trump said “that the immigration and asylum system is in crisis as a consequence of the mass migration of aliens across our southern border.” He makes mention of caravans and large groups that travel with children.

“The extensive resources required to process and care for these individuals pulls U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel away from securing our nation’s borders,” he wrote.

“Additionally, illicit organizations benefit financially by smuggling illegal aliens into the United States and encouraging abuse of our asylum procedures. This strategic exploitation of our nation’s humanitarian programs undermines our nation’s security and sovereignty.”

The New Norms

In addition, the president called for all asylum applications to be ruled on within 180 days of filing. He said the purpose of the new norms is “to strengthen asylum procedures to safeguard our system against rampant abuse of our asylum process.”

Hours after the memo was published, Bishop Mark J. Seitz of the Diocese of El Paso, Texas, testified April 30 during a hearing before the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation and Operations in Washington. He spoke of his and other border communities’ response in helping families seeking asylum who have been released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Places such as Annunciation House in the El Paso area and centers run by Catholic charitable organizations, dioceses and other groups in the border communities of McAllen, Texas, as well as Tucson, Arizona, provide families and other individuals seeking asylum with a hot meal, a change of clothes, help with arranging travel plans en route to family or friends in the U.S., he explained.

While their work, strength and compassion has been exceptional, Bishop Seitz said the government “has a responsibility to care for people who are arriving with credible claims for asylum and a responsibility to assist anyone in desperate need within our borders.”

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