The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration met with a high-ranking ICE official on Monday to discuss the impact of immigration raids around the country. The committee’s bishops encouraged a decrease or elimination of immigration raids and asked that churches, hospitals, and charities not be targeted for enforcement actions.
The committee discussed immigration enforcement policy with Assistant Secretary Julie Meyers of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Assistant Secretary Meyers, who heads the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division within DHS, oversees the enforcement of immigration law within the country.
Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, the committee chairman, said that the tone of the meeting was cooperative, not confrontational. According to Bishop Wester, the committee acknowledged the right of the government to enforce the law, but told Assistant Secretary Meyers that the use of raids should be minimized, if not abandoned altogether.
“We wanted to communicate our desire to work with the government to minimize the use of raids and to reduce the negative impact of the raids on immigrant families,” said Bishop Wester. “We felt that the Assistant Secretary was willing to work more closely with us to prevent the separation of families and to protect children.”
ICE raids have taken place over the past 18 months in Greeley, Colorado, Grand Island, Nebraska, New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Utah, among other places.
During these raids, children who are U.S. citizens have been separated from their undocumented parents who were arrested in the raids.
“Our primary concern is to reduce the trauma that children experience when a parent is taken away suddenly,” said Bishop Wester. “We informed the Assistant Secretary that diocesan and Catholic Charities personnel are in a good position to help families in the aftermath of an enforcement action.”
Bishop Wester said the meeting also focused on common interests, such as enacting comprehensive immigration reform and ending human trafficking.
The committee also expressed its opposition to immigration enforcement activity focused on churches, hospitals, or social service programs.
“We do not want migrants to be afraid to attend Mass or to seek the basic assistance that they need,” Bishop Wester explained.