Society, Justice and Law

Provincials urge compassionate asylum policies

October 11, 2019

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(Update, Oct. 11, 2019, 4:50 p.m.: Shortly after this story was posted, it was reported that Kevin McAleenan had resigned as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security.)

Jesuit leaders from the U.S. and Canada met with the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security this week to advocate for people seeking asylum in the U.S., the Society of Jesus reported

The group, which included the U.S. Jesuit Conference President Timothy Kesicki, S.J., and the six Jesuit provincials leading provinces in the U.S. and Canada, pushed Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan to implement a welcoming and humane asylum policy at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Scott Santarosa, S.J., provincial of Jesuits West, called the United States’ current asylum policies “a betrayal of our identity as a country of immigrants” and urged others to “…make our country more the country we believe it should be — more the country it wants to be. What does that mean? It means putting our own credibility on the line and saying, ‘I believe in this.’” 

The meeting with Secretary McAleenan followed an action alert issued last month by the provincials in anticipation of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Sept. 29), in which they wrote, in part: 

“Recent developments related to migration call for renewed action from our community. In the United States, new restrictions have been imposed on those seeking asylum, and the treatment of many families in particular is unjustifiable. In Canada, a new immigration law has been buried within a federal omnibus bill, and children continue to be “housed” in detention centers in Montreal. 

It is important that policy discussions be grounded in a set of basic ethical principles. When discerning how our nations should respond to issues of migration, we turn to the four verbs Pope Francis outlined in his message for last year’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees: welcome, protect, promote, and integrate. These guidelines lead us to a compassionate, humanitarian, and moral response to migration. 

Compassionate policy begins with asking the right questions. Rather than asking how the government can prevent or deter migrants from coming here, we should instead ask ourselves why they have chosen to make such a dangerous journey, and how we can better promote improved economic and political conditions in the countries that people are leaving. When people are forced to flee their homes and come to our countries seeking security, we should ask how we can welcome and protect them.”