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Statement of Adrian Dominican Sisters on Executive Orders Impacting Immigrants and Refugees, Joining Voices of Other Catholic Leaders

January 31, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – The General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters has issued the following statement in response to the recent executive orders by President Trump regarding immigrants and refugees. This statement is also available as a printable PDF

The Adrian Dominican Sisters share the sense of alarm and concern that many Catholic leaders have expressed concerning the Executive Orders recently issued by President Trump to ban refugees and immigrants from Muslim nations, increase detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants, further wall off and militarize our southern border, and cut federal funding to sanctuary cities and counties.

These orders are inimical to our Catholic belief in the inherent dignity of every person; our Judeo-Christian tradition of caring for the stranger; our American values of welcoming people who yearn to “breathe free;” and our nation’s protection of religious freedom.

As members of the worldwide Order of Preachers, which has a long tradition of upholding human rights and includes sisters, brothers, and friars of all nationalities ministering in love and friendship with people around the Earth, we find these actions to be both heartbreaking and chilling. We call on President Trump to uphold our nation’s fundamental values and constitutional protections by rescinding these dangerous, unconscionable orders.

Among the many other Catholic leaders and organizations that have issued statements of concern are the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, bishops from various parts of the country, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and Catholic immigration, relief and resettlement agencies. A sampling of excerpts from public statements follows:

Leadership Conference of Women Religious
We are deeply concerned about the administration’s executive orders on immigration and refugee resettlement which serve only to threaten border communities, force our immigrant community members further into the shadows, and endanger those fleeing violence. These misguided executive orders do nothing to make anyone more secure and may well have the opposite effect.

Dominican Sisters Conference
This executive order gives aid and comfort to those forces which are bent on willful destruction. It harkens back to the darker moments of our own history of slavery and internment camps. It lowers our estimation in the eyes of the many peoples who want to know America as a defender of human rights and religious liberty, not a nation that targets religious populations and then shuts its doors on them.

Statements of Bishops

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)
We believe in assisting all those who are vulnerable and fleeing persecution, regardless of their religion. This includes Christians, as well as Yazidis and Shia Muslims from Syria, Rohingyas from Burma, and other religious minorities. However, we need to protect all our brothers and sisters of all faiths, including Muslims, who have lost family, home, and country. They are children of God and are entitled to be treated with human dignity.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich (Chicago, Illinois)
The world is watching as we abandon our commitments to American values. These actions give aid and comfort to those who would destroy our way of life. They lower our estimation in the eyes of the many peoples who want to know America as a defender of human rights and religious liberty, not a nation that targets religious populations and then shuts its doors on them.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo (Galveston-Houston, Texas)
As Archbishop of a Texas diocese, I believe that the order to construct a wall along our border with Mexico will only make migrants more susceptible to traffickers and smugglers – putting their lives in needless danger. It also destabilizes the many vibrant interconnected communities that live in peace along our border.

Archbishop José H. Gomez (Los Angeles, California)
Friends, walls and more aggressive enforcement will not make America great again. We need new pathways to understanding. 

Bishop Robert W. McElroy (San Diego, California)
[T]his executive order is the introduction into law of campaign sloganeering rooted in xenophobia and religious prejudice. …This week the Statue of Liberty lowered its torch in a presidential action which repudiates our national heritage and ignores the reality that Our Lord and the Holy Family were themselves Middle Eastern refugees fleeing government oppression. We cannot and will not stand silent.

Bishop Michael F. Olson (Fort Worth, Texas) 
The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth respects the responsibility of the federal government to secure our borders and ensure the safety of our citizens for the common good. ...As Catholics we will not close the door to our neighbor in need out of our fear and selfishness.

Cardinal Séan O'Malley (Boston, Massachusetts)
Our country has the opportunity to respond to the reality of immigration with policies and practices which reflect our deepest religious and social principles. Together let us make the commitment to be a beacon of light and hope for those who look to us in their time of need.

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, CSsR (Newark, New Jersey)
Wednesday’s Executive Actions do not show the United States to be an open and welcoming nation. They are the opposite of what it means to be an American. Closing borders and building walls are not rational acts. Mass detentions and wholesale deportation benefit no one; such inhuman policies destroy families and communities.

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron (Detroit, Michigan)
In a letter to the chair of the Imams Council of Michigan: “I wrote to you a little over a year ago to share with you my statement to the priests of our Archdiocese regarding a proposal made during the presidential campaign to restrict Muslim immigration to the United States. At that time, I reaffirmed my commitment to stand with you in opposing any and all unjust discrimination on the basis of religion. Today, I reaffirm that pledge.” 

Cardinal Donald Wuerl  (Washington, DC)
As I recently noted, we are called to care for one another, whether it be our longstanding neighbor down the street, or a newcomer to our nation seeking relief from brutal religious and political persecution. 

Statements of Catholic Agencies

Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA)
“Pope Francis has urged people not to close the door on migrants and refugees. In concert with the Holy Father, we believe we must move from attitudes of defensiveness and fear to acceptance, compassion and encounter. ... Our commitment to care for those who are most vulnerable resides at the core of our faith,” said Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, president and CEO of CCUSA.

Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC)
“At a time when war and persecution have driven more people to flee in search of safety than any other time in modern history, we need to protect refugees rather than reject them out of misplaced fear,” said Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of CLINIC.

Catholic Relief Services 
Our elected officials have an obligation to protect the security of the American people, and we should all take concerns about security seriously. But, denying entry to people desperate enough to leave their homes, cross oceans in tiny boats, and abandon all their worldly possessions just to find safety will not make our nation safer.

Jesuit Relief Services 
By proposing to discriminate among individuals with valid claims for our protection on the basis of place of origin or religion rather than on the criteria firmly established by U.S. and international law, this announcement calls into question the worldwide standards of non-discrimination that are the bedrock of humanitarian response, just at the moment when we are experiencing the greatest displacement crisis since the end of the Second World War

Center for Earth Jurisprudence Writes Amicus Brief in Favor of Young Plaintiffs

January 25, 2016, Orlando, Florida – Attorney Rob Williams, of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence (CEJ), has written an amicus brief in support of youth who are bringing a constitutional claim against the federal government, in the case of Kelsey Cascadia Rose Juliana; Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh M., through his Guardian Tamara Roske-Martinez; et al. Plaintiffs v. the United States of America; Barack Obama, in his official capacity as President of the United States; et al., Federal Defendants. 

The 21 young plaintiffs – through the non-profit organization, Our Children’s Trust -- claim that the government is denying their constitutional due process rights by neglecting its obligation under the constitutional reserved powers doctrine, in conjunction with the public trust doctrine, to preserve the atmosphere for the welfare of future generations. The plaintiffs claim that the atmosphere is being polluted by carbon emissions resulting from production by the fossil fuel industry. “The public trust doctrine imposes sovereign duties on the federal government to protect the atmosphere necessary for human survival,” the brief reads.

The case is to be brought in federal district court in Eugene, Oregon – one of multiple cases throughout the United States making this claim under the doctrine of public trust.  

The CEJ has written the amicus brief on behalf of the Global Catholic Climate Movement – representing 250 Catholic organizations and thousands of individuals – and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), made up of about 1,400 leaders of about 80 percent of the women religious in the United States.

Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, founder and director of CEJ, explained that she had been approached in the fall and asked if her organization could write the amicus brief with a focus on the moral perspective of protecting the commons as set forth in Pope Francis’ recent encyclical, Laudato Si. In this encyclical, Pope Francis focuses on a number of topics, including the “sacred trust” to preserve our natural resources for future generations. The brief states that "natural resources" are not to be valued only in terms of their benefits to humankind. "Pope Francis warns against thinking of different species and ecological systems as 'merely potential resources' to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves."

Sister Pat, an attorney, said the amicus brief is an effort to give the judge some moral arguments to bolster his decision to try a case based on the asserted rights of future generations. The defendants in the Eugene, Oregon case – which include fossil fuel corporations as well as the U.S. government – are seeking to dismiss the case, and a hearing on that request is scheduled for March 9. Just the fact that the judge has scheduled a hearing on this request rather than dismissing the case outright is a positive sign, Sister Pat said. 

She said these Children's Trust cases are a strategic means to transform the current legal system. The cases brought forth by Our Children’s Trust are meant to secure the rights of youth and future generations, who will suffer the consequences of global climate change in their lifetimes. But CEJ hopes to take these efforts a step further: to “create laws that recognize and protect nature’s rights, such as the atmosphere, to exist and be healthy.”   

Sister Pat emphasized the connection between human beings and nature: all of life on the planet is interconnected. Atmosphere, soil, and water that are healthy will also be healthy for human beings. All of creation has the right to healthy conditions that will enable it to flourish. The need to act in environmental issues is urgent, for the sake of all life forms, she said, quoting Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org: "The laws of physics wait for no one." 

View these resources for further background on the case in Eugene, Oregon, and on the amicus brief:

- EcoWatch – “Pope Francis Part of Amicus Brief Filed in Support of Teen’s Landmark Climate Change Lawsuit”
- Columbia Law School Climate Law Blog –  “Lawsuit Alleges that U.S. Government Violated Constitutional Rights of America’s Youth by Promoting the Development and Use of Fossil Fuels"
- Moyers & Company – “Kids Suing Government for Climate Action Attract Influential Allies and Opponents”
- Climate Change News – “Catholics back children’s climate lawsuit against US government”


Feature photo: Sister Pat Siemen, OP, in Ecuador in January 2014 for the Global Summit on the Rights of Nature



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