WASHINGTON—President Donald J. Trump in January issued an executive order to construct a wall at the U.S./Mexico border, to significantly increase immigrant detention and deportation, and to disregard the judgment of state and local law enforcement on how best to protect their communities.
The U.S./Mexico border, spanning approximately 2,000 miles, already has roughly 700 miles of fencing and barrier that was constructed under the George W. Bush administration. In response to the decision to build a wall on the U.S./Mexico border, Bishop Joe Vasquez, Chair of the Committee of Migration and Bishop of the Diocese of Austin, stated:
"I am disheartened that the President has prioritized building a wall on our border with Mexico. This action will put immigrant lives needlessly in harm's way. Construction of such a wall will only make migrants, especially vulnerable women and children, more susceptible to traffickers and smugglers. Additionally, the construction of such a wall destabilizes the many vibrant and beautifully interconnected communities that live peacefully along the border. Instead of building walls, at this time, my brother bishops and I will continue to follow the example of Pope Francis. We will "look to build bridges between people, bridges that allow us to break down the walls of exclusion and exploitation.'"
In regard to the announcement of the planned surge in immigrant detention and deportation forces, Bishop Vasquez added:
"The announced increase in immigrant detention space and immigration enforcement activities is alarming. It will tear families apart and spark fear and panic in communities. While we respect the right of our federal government to control our borders and ensure security for all Americans, we do not believe that a large scale escalation of immigrant detention and intensive increased use of enforcement in immigrant communities is the way to achieve those goals. Instead, we remain firm in our commitment to comprehensive, compassionate, and commonsense reform. We fear that the policies announced today will make it much more difficult for the vulnerable to access protection in our country. Everyday my brother bishops and I witness the harmful effects of immigrant detention in our ministries. We experience the pain of severed families that struggle to maintain a semblance of normal family life. We see traumatized children in our schools and in our churches. The policies announced today will only further upend immigrant families."
Moving forward after the announcement, Bishop Vasquez noted:
"We will continue to support and stand in solidarity with immigrant families. We remind our communities and our nation that these families have intrinsic value as children of God. And to all those impacted by this decision, we are here to walk with you and accompany you on this journey."