Bishop Anthony B. Taylor issued this statement Jan. 29 regarding the executive order by President Donald Trump to temporarily ban some refugees and immigrants from entering the United States.
Satan is "the father of lies" (John 8:44) and he prowls the world seeking the ruin of souls -- and nations. Satan's greatest tool is fear. He sows the seeds of confusion and takes advantage of people's blindness, ignorance and gullibility. This week we have seen clearly the chaos that ensues when policy decisions are made without first considering their impact on real people, our brothers and sisters in our own communities and abroad.
The recent spate of executive orders seems clearly to be rooted in fear and so-called alternative truths. Alternative truths are simply lies. Fear about the non-existent threat that hard-working immigrants supposedly pose to our country, including those who came here as children. Fear about the non-existent threat that law-abiding Muslims supposedly pose to our country. These irrational fears even cause some to doubt our already stringent vetting system for refugees. Because these irrational fears are manipulated in such a way as to sow confusion and stoke fear -- indeed, paranoia -- many Americans have been seduced by them and believe them to be true.
We Catholics proclaim the right to life from the first moment of conception to natural death, and while we do hope for the nomination of Supreme Court justices who will once again restore protection to the child in the womb, we must not forget that being "pro-life" encompasses all of life. The protections we seek do not end when the child leaves the womb or a person crosses a national border. Respect for life involves protecting human life and human dignity from all harm and this includes the God-given obligation to provide for one's family, and the corresponding right -- indeed, obligation -- to migrate when necessary to protect one's family and provide for them. No one emigrates because things are going well in the country of origin. People generally immigrate because they have to. Indeed, in the case of refugees--to whom one of these executive actions closes our doors--it is often a matter of life or death. We all have this right to immigrate when necessary, regardless of religion, ethnicity, race and so on--Muslims included--and not just those from countries not excluded by the recent executive action. As Pope Francis has said time and time again, we should be building bridges, not a wall on the Mexican border. Pass comprehensive immigration reform based on the actual economic and political realities that drive most immigration and there will be no need for a wall because most people will pass through the gate. The Border Patrol can then focus its efforts on the genuine criminal elements and not on honorable people who are simply immigrating out of necessity.
You and I are children of immigrants who were not much different from those of today. Our ancestors came here because they saw the United States as a beacon of hope, a place to escape the poverty and tyranny of the Old World, often from places where the father of lies was calling the shots. And they are the ones who made our nation great. Not the No-Nothings who persecuted the Irish Catholic potato famine immigrants of the 1850s; they made our nation small.
Not the politicians who passed the Chinese exclusion act of 1882 or those who were so fearful of Catholics and Jews that they passed laws in the 1920s severely restricting immigration from southern and eastern Europe while favoring those from Protestant northern and western Europe. Those measures intended to reduce diversity did not make us great, they made us small. As did the Ku Klux Klan who did so much damage during the 1920s when they dominated life in Arkansas. They persecuted not only African Americans, but also anyone whom they deemed not sufficiently American, including German and Italian Catholics in Arkansas.
Then there was the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II at Rohwer in the Arkansas Delta. We are rightly ashamed of all of these times when our nation chose to be small rather than great. Times when we gave way to paranoia, when we listened to the father of lies instead of the Lord of Life. Now it looks like history is repeating itself. Once again we are choosing to be small rather than great and once again the chief victims will be those who are "different" and who have no voice.
But you and I do have a voice and an obligation use that voice to speak the truth, namely that all life is sacred and is to be protected from the first moment of conception through every stage of life -- regardless of race, religion or immigration status -- a seamless garment, all the way to natural death. And that anything -- including any government policy -- that is harmful to human life, human dignity and human rights must be strenuously opposed. If we listen more to God speaking in our hearts and less to the fear-mongers and purveyors of paranoia, we will find the courage to do what is right because we know that in the end, the light is more powerful than the darkness and you and I are called to be sons and daughters of the light.
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