FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 4, 2019
Media Contacts:
Janine Walsh | | 203-685-1856
Rev. Eugene Squeo | | 201-207-0112
Erin Williams | | 202-748-0699

Cardinal Tobin Joins Hundreds of Catholics in Nonviolent Action for Immigrant Children

Many leaders risk arrest for nonviolent civil disobedience

Newark, NJ – Today, over 400 participants joined 50 Catholic leaders who risked arrest for nonviolent civil disobedience as Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Newark gave a blessing to those participating.

Cardinal Tobin said, “We stand together in prayer and solidarity with our immigrant sisters and brothers. When they suffer, we suffer, the Church suffers, the Body of Christ suffers. We are one in the Lord and share in the very suffering of Christ.”

This national campaign was developed by a Catholic Coalition of organizations to pressure the Trump administration and Congress to end the policies and practices that routinely traumatize children, particularly the policy of child and family detention. With the combined pressure from partner campaigns and since the beginning of this Catholic campaign in July, over 2500 children have been released. Yet, the recent deaths of children in detention are not only tragic, they were foreseeable. We know that the culture of dehumanization, such as we see too often with ICE and CBP, leads to violence. We are mobilizing Catholics to increasingly take more strategic risks to stop this inhumanity.

The Catholic Coalition chose Newark as its first follow up event because many from that region who came to the DC action in July expressed energy for a national action in their area. There has also been over 20 years of activism of Catholics in and around New Jersey to advocate for and minister to immigrants and their families who have been targeted by ICE for detention and deportation. Local groups have been working to pressure local politicians to end all detention and improve conditions in the interim.

The Essex County Jail was recently in the news over conditions for immigrant detainees that DHS itself said were not only unsafe, unsanitary and inhumane, they were among the worst in the country. New Jersey is home to three other detention centers, the Hudson and Bergen County Jails and the Elizabeth Detention Center which have also been plagued by poor conditions and avoidable deaths.

The county jails all contract with ICE in return for millions of dollars each year. Local advocates want the counties to come up with a responsible plan to exit from the contracts and in the interim, use the money for universal legal representation for immigrant detainees, as well as institute community oversight boards to improve conditions. 

Several bishops have sent statements of support for this gathering and civil disobedience action. For full details, click here.

List of 13 National Sponsoring Organizations for this event
160 Organizational Endorsements for the campaign

Patrick Carolan, Executive Director of the Franciscan Action Network: I am proud as a Catholic and as part of the Franciscan family to stand up with my brothers and sisters today to continue to protest the inhumane treatment of immigrant and asylum-seeking children in U.S. detention. Many of us have been to the border, all of us can see the photos of the horrific conditions in which these children of God are kept. We all bear responsibility for the deaths of these innocent children. We have sat by and allowed our faith, our christian beliefs to be hijacked by people claiming to be Christian and yet they are preaching a gospel of hate and fear. As Pope Francis challenged us, let us join together and be part of a bold cultural revolution.

Ann Scholz, SSND, Associate Director for Social Mission, Leadership Conference of Women Religious: We are here today because of our faith. The Gospel commands, and the values of our homeland demand that we act to end the inhumanity. Catholic sisters have a long history of walking with immigrant communities. We have seen the violence and chaos that has forced migrants from their homes. We have witnessed the pain and suffering of those seeking safety and security at our southern border.  We have joined the tens of thousands who are outraged at the horrific treatment of immigrant children and families by our own government. We are here today to say loudly and clearly, stop the inhumanity. The mistreatment of children, the separation of families, the denigration of our immigrant brothers and sisters done in our name must stop.

Susan Francois, CSJP, Leadership Team Member of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace:  We cannot remain silent in these days when families are torn apart, children and their parents are incarcerated, and human dignity is exploited in our name.  Our Sisters first came to New Jersey in 1884 as immigrants themselves to serve immigrants, knowing their pain and suffering.  Today we continue to serve and stand in solidarity with immigrants and refugees.   Our faith teaches us that we are all brothers and sisters and that everyone has a right to be treated with human dignity.  I am here because we cannot be silent.  We must stand up and be counted on the side of justice. We must stop the inhumanity being done in our name.

Kathy O’Leary, Pax Christi USA, New Jersey Region Coordinator: The indefinite incarceration of asylum seekers, the separation of families, and the incarceration of children are injustices that cry out to heaven. The recent deaths of children in CBP custody, however, were not unforeseeable. In the decades since the detention of asylum seekers became mandatory and legal permanent residents became subject to deportation, for even the most minor of offenses, we have borne witness to hundreds of deaths in immigration detention, and those are just the ones that our government showed enough care to record. It is time for us to reject the idea that this has anything to do with safety, security or an orderly process at our borders.  It is time for us to embrace tightly our nation’s ugly history of exclusion and oppression of anyone not considered white enough so that we can understand its connection to the incarceration of people for profit and the denial of food, water, shelter and medical care. Only then we can pull it out by its root.

Eli McCarthy, PhD, Director of Justice and Peace at Conference of Major Superiors of Men: It is traumatizing abuse to detain children, with or without family. We see the urgent inhumanity and injustice. We are challenged by our faith to enter more deeply into solidarity, inspire others to take on more risks, to increasingly non-cooperate with injustice, and to live the Eucharist — being one body, ready to be broken for others. We thank Cardinal Tobin for joining us and opening a nonviolent horizon for the Catholic community to live our discipleship of Jesus.

Sister Patricia Vetrano, RSM, Leader, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Mid-Atlantic: We cannot watch and stay silent while thousands of vulnerable children and families are subjected to degrading and dehumanizing treatment at the hands of our government.  Our Catholic faith calls us to ‘welcome the stranger’ and ensure a dignified life for all God’s people. The Sisters of Mercy add our voice in strong resistance to the cruel practice of detaining children and families and advocate for compassionate immigration reform.

Sister Barbara Battista, SP, Justice Promoter for the Sisters of Providence of Indiana:  The cruel and inhumane treatment, both physically and emotionally violent, cries out for justice.  We as Sisters of Providence cannot sit idly by without adding our voice, our efforts, our prayer to the many hundreds of persons across this nation that today cry out “Stop the Inhumanity”.  We have invited Sisters, PAs, staff, co-ministers, and many more persons to a ‘wherever you are’ event on September 4 at 11:00 am.  We will spend ten minutes in focused, intentional prayer in solidarity for immigrant children and families. 

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