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Catholic nuns and activists arrested while protesting detention of immigrant children
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Seventy Catholic activists have been arrested in Washington D.C. while protesting the government's treatment of children in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody. The activists were arrested for conducting an unlawful demonstration in a public place.
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Catholic lay and religious activists protested at the Senate office buildings in Washington D.C. on Thursday, leading to 70 arrests. Catholics have a duty to pray and act against injustice.
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Seventy Catholic activists including several nuns, were arrested in Washington D.C. on Thursday for staging an unlawful protest in a public place. The activists packed into the Russell Senate Office Building and recited the Rosary. Several activists held photos of children who have died in ICE custody. Others laid on the floor of the building's rotunda, making a cross with their bodies.
Among the arrested was 90-year old sister, Patricia M. Murphy, who has long advocated for the rights of detained immigrants. The Twitter tags #CatholicDayofAction and @FaithinPublicLife were used to keep people posted on the event.
According to the activists and others who have investigated the situation at the detention centers, children are being held in detention centers longer than permitted by law. The Border Patrol may hold children for up to 72 hours before they must be transferred to Health and Human Services for placement into foster care. Evidence suggests these children are being held much longer, possibly weeks.
Contributing greatly to the crisis is a surge in immigration as people rush to enter the country out of fear the Trump administration may ban all or most immigration, or build a wall. Conditions in other countries motivate people to flee, including violence from gang and cartel activity, the the misdeeds of corrupt regimes.
Under international and U.S. law, people whose lives are in imminent danger have the right to seek asylum in the United States. About two-thirds of those who arrive at the border have a credible claim, according to official government records. The other third do not, and must be deported. In addition, all illegal immigrants must be deported.
However, the flood of asylum seekers, caused by growing Latin-American instability, has strained the system and caused overcrowding. The Trump administration has been firm in enforcing immigration laws, which have been on the books since Obama. The Trump administration has increased enforcement of the law, which results in more people in custody.
Those detained in the centers can leave, but only if they post bail, much like anyone in U.S. custody who has not been convicted of a crime.
The problems caused by overcrowding in these centers are serious. Similar problems have developed in Mexican detention centers just south of the border, but these centers are rarely mentioned. Inmates, visitors, and images from within the facilities show overcrowded conditions, including children sleeping on the floor with tin-foil blankets. More alarming reports tell of a lack of healthcare, neglect, violence, including rapes, and of several children dying in custody.
While nations have the right and an obligation to secure and defend their borders, they may not violate human rights while doing so, unless those entering the country are hostile. Asylum seekers are not hostile.
The situation at the border is complex. America, the land of the free, established by immigrants and their children, remains a beacon of hope and opportunity to the world. Millions are attracted and all who wish to become American citizens are welcomed on the condition they enter the country legally. Asylum seekers are considered legal entrants, but they must first prove their cases.
Under no conditions should human rights be violated, especially those of children. The religious protesting on Thursday are fighting against precisely that.
It is clear that the Trump administration needs to do more to protect children and asylum seekers in general. However, the administration also has a duty to the American people, to those who are here legally, to enforce the law and prevent the unlawful entry of drug runners, human traffickers, and all others who have no regard for the rule of law. But these two aims are not inconsistent, and as Catholics we have a duty to pray and advocate for both.
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