But you also raise an important point. There is indeed a humanitarian emergency on the border. And while many people are doing good work to address this crisis, the problem persists, and has worsened precipitously over the past two years. It’s time we ask some hard questions about whether our public policies, leaders in government, and even the Catholic response to this crisis are helping, and how things can be improved or changed. Catholics and Americans more broadly are frustrated with the situation at our border, and anyone truly concerned should welcome more facts.
How is the FOIA request not political or not politically partisan, when it targets a Democratic administration and is filed in conjunction with Judicial Watch, a noted conservative organization?
The humanitarian crisis at the border is a problem for both parties and for all Americans. Responsible citizenship includes asking our government hard questions sometimes, regardless of what party is in control. Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, recently said that the “Church must be political,” and that “We do a disservice to our membership if we call for an apolitical Church, because that would be a Church that is aloof to the concerns of the human family.” We agree, and we believe this is especially the responsibility of the laity, which is why our organization was founded.
With respect to this administration, Sister Pimentel recently disclosed that grant monies are being used to transport migrants across the country. That admission only came after investigative reporting by Bill Melugin, who found that federal agents were escorting migrants from Catholic Charities to a bus station that sent them away from the border. Catholics deserve to know the details of how the Biden administration is working with these charities.
Again, transparency can only be a good thing.
Judicial Watch is a well-known organization with expertise in filing and securing responses to FOIA requests from both Republican and Democratic administrations. They fought (former Republican Vice President] Dick Cheney all the way to the Supreme Court. The importance of getting Catholics the information they deserve to make informed judgments about the crisis on our border is a non-partisan issue.
Do you have any reason to believe the delay in having your FOIA request fulfilled is anything out of the ordinary? Doesn’t it often take months, or longer, to obtain this type of information from the government, especially in the case of documents shared by multiple federal agencies?
Sure, it’s common for government agencies to stonewall the public. They often don’t want to be forthcoming with documents and information. This is why watchdog organizations routinely have to use lawsuits to force these agencies to act. Our FOIA requests were filed in September of last year. The courts have agreed that six months is a reasonable amount of time to expect a response before a lawsuit is ripe.
What practical purposes can this move have when it is likely that CatholicVote will most likely have to wait months and even years for a response?
We hope we don’t have to wait that long. Already our lawsuits are bringing attention to this issue, and reminding our political and religious leaders that the public cannot be ignored. That’s good for everyone, from ordinary Catholics in the pews who are concerned with what they’re seeing on the border, to public officials who are tasked with advancing the common good, to the refugees and migrants themselves — many of whom are suffering the most from the humanitarian crisis at the border. Our lawsuits have also already prompted insiders to share information about what they know, which is helping shape our understanding of what is happening.
In addition to filing your FOIA requests, have you sought to obtain the information you are seeking from Catholic Charities and the other groups themselves?
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We are reviewing all available public documents, grants, tax filings, and reports. But this information is limited. We also want to understand the ways in which our government is using these Catholic agencies to carry out its immigration policies. The charities have no obligation to respond, but Catholics do have a right under the Freedom of Information Act to ask these questions of our government, and to get answers. You only need to look at the vicious attacks leveled against us already to understand why we had to proceed in the way we have.
Is it fair to publicly imply that something possibly illegal is going on with respect to Catholic Charities and similar groups at the border, before finding out the facts first?
We need to move beyond the phony binary framework, where it’s assumed that any work being done on the border is righteous and beyond scrutiny, and anyone raising questions is a racist enemy of the Church, or of migrants. We are seeking facts. Every Catholic in America deserves them. In doing so, we have raised legitimate questions about whether the federal government and their partnership with these agencies is helping, or indeed legal. If nothing improper is occurring, then there is nothing to worry about.
The terrible situation at the border deserves more sunlight and attention, not less. We’ve seen murders, countless children going missing, and women and young girls routinely assaulted and sexually trafficked. According to some sources, 30% of women are being raped during migrations. The worst actors — cartels and people smugglers — have made a lucrative business for themselves based on the status quo. And there’s also the plight of migrants who do make it through our disorderly border, only to find themselves trapped in an underground economy. Meanwhile, dangerous drugs make their way into our own communities where they destroy our own citizens. Nobody wants this to continue.
Let’s get the facts. Let’s have an informed debate. Let’s stop shaming Catholics who are asking hard questions. The status quo is unacceptable. Something needs to change.