Bishop of Tucson: America's immigration system is broken

TUCSON, Ariz. -

Catholic leaders reiterated calls for change in immigration policy following two days of meetings with migrant families along the border and in Tucson.

Sister Donna Markham, CEO and President of Catholic Charities USA, spent Thursday morning meeting with parents and children at Casa Alitas, a home in Tucson run by Catholic Charities offering food, clothing, and shelter to immigrants.

“Most of them that I spoke with were really fearing for their lives and that's why they're here and not cause they wanted to be here,” Markham said.

On Wednesday, she visited Nogales, Sonora, to speak with people waiting to enter the United States.

Markham said U.S. lawmakers should work together to find a compassionate solution to immigration issues.

“Realizing that someday you or I could be in a situation where we had to run for our lives and hope that a stranger, whose language we didn't understand, would welcome us with respect and care.”

Diocese of Tucson Bishop Edward Weisenburger joined Markham on her trip to Casa Alitas.

“Hearing their stories of the fear, the trauma, they’ve gone through in this journey, especially with babies, small children, it’s a very sobering experience for anyone,” Weisenburger said.

Social workers at the home said some of the ten people currently staying in the five-bedroom house came from as far as Brazil seeking asylum. Adults wear ankle monitors while they are free in America awaiting their scheduled court appearance.

In June, Weisenburger asked the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops if it would explore the possibility of canonical penalties for Catholics involved in the separation of families. Canonical penalties can include something as severe as excommunication or denying someone communion.

“I think the time is there for prophetic statement,” Weisenburger said June 15th. “I also think even though what I’m saying may be a little risky or dangerous I think it’s important to point out canonical penalties are there in place to heal.”

On June 20th, in a letter to the Arizona Daily Star, Weisenburger wrote he never said "excommunication" or "deny the sacraments" and church law dictates other steps be taken beforehand.   

On Thursday, he called the current U.S. immigration system “broken” but added countries have a right to monitor their borders.

“I really have faith in our legislature that if we can take a deep breath in, a deep breath out, and begin fresh we can make serious change and bring about a healthy and appropriate immigration system for the United States,” he said.

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