National News

San Diego Diocese Launching Program to Prevent Family Separation at Border

Part of a group of 16 Jesuit priests and staff from the Jesuits West province pray June 7 at the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Tijuana, Mexico. In addition to the fence, the group visited several migrant shelters and a Jesuit-run university to learn about immigration issues first hand. They are part of a larger group of Jesuits and lay people who will be in San Diego for a June 9 ordination ceremony. (Photo:Catholic News Service/David Maung)

By Christopher White, The Tablet’s National Correspondent

NEW YORK – In response to the Trump administration’s policy that separates children from their parents arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, Bishop Robert McElroy has announced that the diocese of San Diego will launch a program aimed at keeping asylum-seeking families together.

During a border Mass on Saturday, Bishop McElroy said “I think it’s inhumane to deliberately separate mothers from their children as a policy.”

The diocese, he said, will start a “program that will try to take in mothers who come here and are granted the first level of asylum, so that we can try to keep mothers with their children, rather than being separated.”

Auxiliary Bishop John P. Dolan of San Diego, center, and Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego are seen in this 2017 file photo concelebrating a Mass in honor of the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in San Diego. (Photo: Catholic News Service/David Maung)

Bishop McElroy celebrated the border Mass, along with Auxiliary Bishop John Dolan, to launch the “Footprints of Tenderness” initiative, in which a flag and a cross will be walked from the U.S.-Mexico border down to Patagonia, Chile in an effort to raise awareness of the plight of children seeking asylum.

“It’s just an amazing thing that here we are on a border where the ocean is so beautiful, absolutely beautiful, and you have this wall that represents a division,” Dolan told the Times of San Diego.

Last week, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a formal statement condemning the administration’s highly controversial policy aimed at deterring individuals from crossing the border.

“Forcibly separating children from their mothers and fathers is ineffective to the goals of deterrence and safety and contrary to our Catholic values. Family unity is a cornerstone of our American immigration system and a foundational element of Catholic teaching,” said Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration.

“Children are not instruments of deterrence but a blessing from God,” he continued.

Earlier this week, another border bishop, Bishop Daniel Flores of the diocese of Brownsville also released a statement describing the policy as “simply cruel.”

“This nation, for the sake of its soul, must learn to weep for these children, and all the children who are being instrumentalized and commodified in our midst,” he said.