Los Angeles bishop joins Catholic leadership in concerns over Trump travel ban

Abeer Abdelrahman, left, comforts her crying sister Areej Ali at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday. Ali was detained after arriving from Sudan.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

President Trump’s executive order temporarily closing the U.S. to refugees and travelers from seven Middle Eastern countries sparked condemnation this week from Southern California bishops, with one calling the act “shameful.”

In a statement released Tuesday, Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, leader of the largest archdiocese in the nation, said that while he agrees with securing the country’s borders, the order undercuts the importance for real immigration reform.

“These new orders do not change the fact that our nation needs true and lasting reform of our immigration system,” he wrote. “Do we really want to hand over the fate of millions of fathers, mothers and children to overworked caseworkers in an underfunded immigration court system? A policy of enforcement only — without reform of the underlying system — will only lead to a human rights nightmare.”


Gomez said the order appeared to have been put together hastily and “not enough thought seems to have been given to their legality or to explaining their rationale or to considering the practical consequences for millions of people here and across the globe.”

He urged Trump’s administration to stop deportations of refugees and travelers who are not violent criminals because it would be the “most constructive and compassionate thing.”

Trump’s executive order blocks all refugees entering the United States for 120 days and indefinitely stops Syrian refugees. It also prohibits for 90 days the issuance of visas to people from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Sudan and Yemen. All of those nations have predominantly Muslim populations.

Comments by Gomez come days after San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy spoke out against the ban in a written statement.

“This week,” wrote the bishop, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, “the Statue of Liberty lowered its torch in a presidential action which repudiates our national heritage and ignores the reality that Our Lord and the Holy Family were themselves Middle Eastern refugees fleeing government oppression.”

McElroy responded with a statement Sunday evening, noting the United States’ “historic identity” as a haven for refugees. The president’s executive order, he wrote, is “rooted in xenophobia and religious prejudice” instead of a careful consideration of national security.

“This week is just such a shameful moment of abandonment for the United States,” he wrote.

The San Diego diocese includes roughly 1.3 million Catholics and 98 parishes in San Diego and Imperial counties. The Los Angeles diocese includes about 5 million Catholics and 287 parishes in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

Warth and Rowe write for the San Diego Union-Tribune.


2:25 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez.

This article was originally published at 7:25 a.m.