Catholic bishops are denouncing the decision of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to no longer consider domestic violence or gang violence as reasons for granting asylum in the United States.
Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, ordinary of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston in Texas, said, “At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life. The Attorney General’s recent decision elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection. … These vulnerable women will now face return to the extreme dangers of domestic violence in their home country. This decision negates decades of precedents that have provided protection to women fleeing domestic violence. Unless overturned, the decision will erode the capacity of asylum to save lives, particularly in cases that involve asylum seekers who are persecuted by private actors.”
Cardinal DiNardo went on to encourage the courts, “to respect and enhance, not erode, the potential of our asylum system to preserve and protect the right to life.”
Donald Kerwin, Jr., director of the Center for Migration Studies, criticized members of the Trump administration’s attempts to identify Mexico as a “safe, third party state.” Mexico is a nation rife with government corruption and drug and gang violence.
The concerns of the bishops and immigration advocates are legitimate. Domestic violence and, especially, gang violence, are legitimate reasons to seek asylum and safety. The government and police of Mexico, and those of many Latin countries, are either ignoring the safety of their citizens, or actually complicit in the violence they suffer.
Solving the problem, however, is not so easy as simply opening the borders of the U. S., or Europe, for that matter, to any and all who come here. Mexico is a country of over 127 million people. If Mexico is identified as a country so lost to corruption and violence, is the entire population to be considered for potential asylum? What are the Catholic bishops in Mexico doing to protect women and children from the violence of husbands and gangs? The number of migrants and potential asylum seekers is huge. Over 65 million people, according to the U. S. bishops, are victims of forced migration, that is, being run out of their home countries or fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries. For the third consecutive month, arrests at the southern border have topped 50,000. If that number holds, that represents 600,000 people seeking to enter the U. S. from Mexico and Central America over the twelve months from March, 2018 to February, 2019. Can the U. S. realistically absorb those kinds of numbers? Finally, and I don’t mean this sarcastically, given the recent record of U. S. civil authorities in California and Maryland, is the U. S. really a safe haven from gang violence?
Ultimately, the answer to this problem is in the home countries of the people who are fleeing the violence. The Church in these countries must be at the forefront of offering protection and sanctuary for women and children, and men, too, who are at risk. No country could possibly take in the entire population of refugees and potential asylum seekers, even if it wanted to. And no country, not just the United States, has communicated a willingness to do that.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.