Bishop of Rhode Island requests a halt on immigration raids

On Tuesday, the Bishop of Providence of Rhode Island sent a letter to U.S. authorities asking them to “declare a moratorium on immigrations raids in the State of Rhode Island, until our nation can implement a comprehensive and just reform of our immigration laws.”

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence sent his requests in a letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Boston (ICE).  According to the Associated Press, illegal immigration has been a hot issue in the state as authorities recently raided courthouses in search of illegal immigrant maintenance workers.

Governor of Rhode Island, Don Carcieri, also signed an order that requires its “state police and prison officials to identify illegal immigrants for possible deportation,” the AP also reports.

The letter, posted on the diocese’s site, is signed by the bishop as well as 15 priests who serve the state’s immigrant community.

The bishop begins the letter by requesting “a moratorium on immigration raids in the State of Rhode Island, until our nation can implement a comprehensive and just reform of our immigration laws.”  Once it is reviewed, “it is our hope that such reform will make immigration raids obsolete.  Until then, we believe that raids on the immigrant community are unjust, unnecessary, and counter-productive.”

“As religious leaders we understand and support the need to apprehend and arrest individuals who are responsible for felonies and other serious crimes,” the bishop notes.  However, “the arrest of serious criminals is not what we have observed in the arrest and detention of immigrants that has taken place recently in our State...”

“What we have witnessed is that the police action of ICE against immigrants has divided the community, instilled fear in our streets, disrupted the everyday life of good people and separated family members, innocent of any crime, from one another,” the letter continued.  “As religious leaders concerned for our people we would be negligent of our pastoral duties if we didn’t speak out against these unjust government policies and practices.”

The letter also calls to attention the ICE officials who participate in immigration raids.  According to the diocese, the bishop and pastors believe that “agents should not be forced to participate in such raids if agents conclude that such actions are immoral or contrary to their personal or religious beliefs.”

“…we encourage the agents and staff of ICE to evaluate the morality of their participation in immigration raids in the context of their faith and sanctity of their conscience. If their discernment leads them to the conclusion that they cannot participate in such raids in good conscience, we urge them not to do so.  If ICE agents refuse to participate in immigration raids in conformity with their faith and conscience, we urge the Federal Government to fully respect the well-founded principles of conscientious objection.”

Along with Bishop Tobin, the following priests from the Diocese of Providence signed the letter:  Rev. Alfred Almonte, St. Bartholomew, Providence; Rev. Jose Cardenas Bonilla, Blessed Sacrament, Providence; Rev. Angelo Carusi, Blessed Sacrament, Providence; Rev. Thomas Ferland, St. Michael, Providence; Rev. Robert Giardina, St. Charles Borromeo, Providence; Rev. Gerald Harbour, St. John the Baptist, Pawtucket, Rev. Bernard Healey, Diocesan Governmental Liaison; Rev. Raymond Malm, St. Joseph, Newport; Rev. Stanley Nakowicz, Our Lady of Loreto, East Providence; Rev. Robert Perron, St. Joseph & Sacred Heart, Pawtucket; Msgr. Jacques Plante, St. John & James, West Warwick; Rev. James Ruggieri, St. Patrick, Providence; Rev. Mark Sauriol, All Saints, Woonsocket; Rev. Daniel Sweet, St. Anthony, Providence; and Rev. Mario Titotto, St. Bartholomew, Providence.

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