Faith Leaders Condemn Trump Proclamation Barring Illegal Immigrants from Applying for Asylum

Members of a U.S.-bound migrant caravan stand on a road after federal police briefly blocked their way outside the town of Arriaga, Mexico, on Oct. 27, 2018. Hundreds of Mexican federal officers carrying plastic shields had blocked the caravan from advancing toward the United States after several thousand of the migrants turned down the chance to apply for refugee status and obtain a Mexican offer of benefits. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

President Trump signed a proclamation Friday (Nov. 9) barring anyone who enters the United States outside of official border crossings from applying for asylum in the country.

Trump hinted at such plans before the midterms, while discussing a caravan of would-be asylum seekers traveling through Central America toward the United States. Since the late 1960s, the U.S. has allowed people fleeing persecution in their home countries to apply for sanctuary anywhere in the U.S., not just at official ports of entry.

Religious support for the proclamation did not immediately fill inboxes and social media timelines.

Opposition started even before the rules were made official.

Earlier this week, 715 leaders and organizations from many different religious traditions signed onto a letter delivered to Congress opposing the president’s plans, affirming the right to seek asylum and expressing “unequivocal support for the caravan of people seeking protection from violence in Central America.”

Signers included two of the six faith-based agencies contracted with the U.S. government to resettle refugees: Church World Service and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. They also included the Franciscan Action Network, the Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers), the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, United Sikhs and the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society.

Last week, the Evangelical Immigration Table also published a letter encouraging churches to “respond with Christ-like love to the vulnerable families and individuals who form this caravan.” It urged the U.S. government to “respect and enforce our laws” allowing people to apply for asylum, though it acknowledged not all who apply may qualify for that status.

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SOURCE: Religion News Service, Emily McFarlan Miller