By Father Jon Pedigo
Director of Advocacy & Community Engagement,
Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County
On April 7, President Trump said that he will send troops to the U.S./Mexico border in response to what he said was a “crackdown” on increased border crossings. California Governor Brown agreed to send National Guard to the border; however, he made it clear that California troops will not be used for enforcing immigration laws. He said, “This will not be a mission to build a new wall…It will not be a mission to round up women and children or detain people escaping violence and seeking a better life.” Many critics here in Santa Clara County echoed national critics. “Sending troops to the border is a political game. The President wants to use the border to appeal to his base,” says, Chava Bustamante, a San José community organizer for LUNA (Latinos United for a New America). Bustamante and dozens of other local and national political and religious figures criticize the decision to move troops to the border when the over-all number of border crossings is at its lowest rate in decades.
Religious leaders, particularly Catholics, are very critical of the decision. Mexican and American Bishops on both sides of the border have spoken out against the plan for increased military presence along the border. Bishop McGrath echoed their concerns saying, “We must look past the dehumanizing rhetoric and remember that immigrants are a vulnerable population and that they are our neighbors and sisters and brothers in Christ.” The Catholic Conference of Catholic Bishops affirms that the principle role of the National Guard is to be first responders in the face of natural disasters and helping protect California against human and drug trafficking. However, they also state that the National Guard cannot be used as auxiliary border control officers and most certainly cannot be a political tool, “…pandering to nativist fears and hatreds.”
Immigrants living in Santa Clara County are far more protected and supported than in other areas of California and the militarization of the border will not have much impact on the lives of immigrants living here because there are several systems that provide support and protection for immigrants: the Sanctuary State law (SB 54) and the county’s detainer policy uphold constitutional protections of privacy and due process for all residents; the Rapid Response Network of Santa Clara County has been established to give support to immigrants who are facing an ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) action; local police chiefs from all the municipalities in the county have stated that they support immigrant residents regardless of immigration status and that they will not participate in removal of non-criminal immigrant families; and public officials including San José Mayor Sam Liccardo and Police Chief Eddie Garcia have come out publicly to pledge their support for immigrant families.
The Catholic community has taken on a leading role in protecting immigrants. Catholic Charities is working to help immigrants without proper work authorization “get right with the law” by helping them become legal residents, informing immigrants of their rights under the Constitution and supporting the Rapid Response Network. Parishes and other faith communities are partnering with Catholic Charities to host immigrant rights workshops, trainings for volunteers who want to help in the Rapid Response Network, and community organizing efforts that promote the fair and equal treatment of immigrants.
For more information on how your parish can host a “Know Your Rights” workshop, please contact Catholic Charities’ Immigration Legal Services Community Relations Manager Grecia Escobar-Emery at (408) 325-5218 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the Rapid Response Network and how you can serve as a volunteer, call Mariela Garcia at Sacred Heart Community Service at (408) 278-2160 or Jesus Ruiz at PACT (People Acting in Community Together) at (408) 998-8001.
U.S. Catholic Bishops of U.S./Mexico Border Respond to U.S. National Guard Deployment
SAN DIEGO – In response to announcements regarding deploying the United States National Guard to the U.S./Mexico Border, the U.S. Catholic Bishops of the U.S./Mexico Border issued the following statement:
“We are deeply concerned by the announcement that the National Guard will be deployed on the U.S./Mexico Border. The continued militarization of the U.S./Mexico Border distorts the reality of life on the border; this is not a war zone but instead is comprised of many peaceful and law-abiding communities that are also generous in their response to human suffering.
“We recognize the right of nations to control and secure their borders; we also recognize the need of nations to respect the rule of law. Current law in the United States rightly provides that those arriving to our country fleeing persecution are entitled to due-process as their claims are reviewed. Seeking refuge from persecution and violence in search of a peaceful life for oneself and one’s family is not a crime. Our faith calls us to respond with compassion to those who suffer, and to live in a spirit of solidarity with all human beings.
“We remain hopeful that our local, state and federal officials will work collaboratively and prudently in the implementation of this deployment, ensuring that the presence of the National Guard is measured and not disruptive to community life. We are also deeply concerned that at this time divisive rhetoric often promotes the dehumanization of immigrants, as if all were threats and criminals.
“We urge Catholics and people of good will to look past the dehumanizing rhetoric regarding immigrants and remember that they are a vulnerable population, our neighbors, and our sisters and brothers in Christ.”