Caritas Corner | Immigration at the Border

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A group called Complicit Clergy has been circulating a video on YouTube recently. In it, they accuse the Catholic Church and Catholic Charities of facilitating the mass migration of individuals and families from Central America and Mexico into the United States. The video captures some of the components that make the border crisis in this country so disturbing, not the least of which is the horrific manipulation of children. The report goes on to imply that Catholic Charities contribute to the problem by providing shelter and other basic services for immigrants in U.S. cities. Because the Complicit Clergy video generalizes their use of Catholic Charities, there have been a number of questions about Catholic Charities of Central Colorado and the Diocese of Colorado Springs’s involvement.

Every Catholic Charities agency in the U.S. is a stand-alone corporation operating under the diocese and Bishop in which they are located. Catholic Charities USA is the national membership entity that provides resources and support to individual agencies throughout the United States. On the border, it is Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo, San Antonio, and San Diego that are doing most of the sheltering work with asylum seekers. Our local Catholic Charities does not provide any funding to other agencies, those working at the border, or otherwise. While we do provide services for immigrants, that work is concentrated on assisting those who have a legal pathway to navigate the documentation and citizenship processes.

It is critical to us that all philanthropic investments in Catholic Charities stay in the Diocese of Colorado Springs. Those gifts that are designated to a specific program like the Marian House Kitchen or to a specific service area like Douglas County are even more explicitly applied. This guarantee is a central tenet of good stewardship, and we take it seriously.

We also take seriously the accusations being made in the Complicit Clergy video. While Catholic Charities of Central Colorado does not have any direct involvement with the work being done at the border, I will attempt to clarify some of the misunderstandings that seem to be at the root of this criticism of the Church. The facilities being run by Catholic Charities agencies on the border are providing shelter, food, and other basic support to asylum seekers once they have been allowed into the U.S. by our government. The asylum process is complicated, misunderstood, and backlogged, but it is important to understand that under international law, those seeking asylum are granted safe haven until they are allowed a hearing to determine the merits of their claim.

Those arriving at shelters operated by Catholic Charities are not doing so clandestinely, they are being referred via the United States Department of Human Services. Once in the country, asylum seekers are required to appear for their case hearings and routinely check in with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) but are not required to stay in a specific place. Most migrants move on from border communities to more stable living conditions elsewhere in the U.S. within a couple of days of arriving. If Catholic Charities ceased to operate these shelters, it would not change anything about the number of individuals and families coming into the United States, but it would likely result in more cold and hungry people sleeping in parks and on the streets of the U.S. border communities as they continue their journey.

Catholic Charities, whether in Colorado Springs, Castle Rock, San Diego, or McAllen, Texas, respond to the gospel call to care for the least of our neighbors when we encounter them. Our work is here in the communities we serve throughout the Diocese of Colorado Springs, and that is where we apply all of our resources. We pray for an end to the suffering of so many who are stuck in the crisis on the border and for the leaders in Central America, Mexico, and the United States to bring an end to the conditions that create these problems.

Andy Barton is the President and CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado.  This article first appeared in the Colorado Catholic Herald.

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