Sunday, September 23rd, 2018
  
 

Pope criticises Trump administration policy on migrant family separation

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He also said he wanted to appoint more women to top positions in the Vatican administration.

One of his most pointed messages concerned President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy.

The US policy, announced in April, requires criminal charges for adults caught crossing the border without using a legal port of entry. Rather than imprison children with their parents, the children are sent to government detention centres.

Through the end of May, the policy has separated almost 2000 children from the adults they were traveling with, the Department of Homeland Security has acknowledged.

The policy has caused an outcry in the United States and has been condemned abroad as videos emerged of youngsters held in concrete-floored enclosures and an audio of wailing children went viral.

US Catholic bishops have joined other religious leaders in the United States in condemning the policy.

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“I am on the side of the bishops’ conference,” the Pope said, referring to two statements from US bishops this month.

“Let it be clear that in these things, I respect [the position of] the bishops conference.”

Francis’ comments add to the pressure on Trump over immigration policy. The Pope heads a church which has 1.3 billion members worldwide and is the largest Christian denomination in the United States.

The President has strongly defended his administration’s actions and cast blame for the family separations on Democrats.

Pope Francis endorsed US bishops' comments that the policy of separating children was immoral.

Pope Francis endorsed US bishops’ comments that the policy of separating children was immoral.

Photo: AP

“Democrats are the problem,” Trump said on Twitter on Tuesday. “They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants.”

The US crackdown chimes with a new political mood sweeping western Europe over the large numbers of migrants and asylum-seekers, most of them escaping conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

The Pope said populists were “creating psychosis” on the issue of immigration, even as ageing societies like Europe faced “a great demographic winter” and needed more immigrants.

Teens who have been taken into custody on the US-Mexico border rest in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas.

Teens who have been taken into custody on the US-Mexico border rest in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas.

Photo: US Border Protection

Without immigration, he added, Europe “will become empty”.

The publication of the pope’s comments on Wednesday came on World Refugee Day and as #WorldRefugeeDay trended on social media.

“A person’s dignity does not depend on them being a citizen, a migrant, or a refugee. Saving the life of someone fleeing war and poverty is an act of humanity,” Francis tweeted Wednesday.

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When asked about the issue in parliament Wednesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May also condemned the separations, but said Trump’s visit to her country July 13 would go ahead as planned.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said earlier this week that it is “unconscionable” that any country would seek to deter parents from migrating “by inflicting such abuse on children”.

Attorney-General Jeff Sessions has defended the policy.

“We do not want to separate children from their parents,” he told the National Sheriffs’ Association. “We do not want adults to bring children into this country unlawfully, placing them at risk. But we do have a policy of prosecuting adults who flout our laws to come here illegally instead of waiting their turn or claiming asylum at any port of entry.”

Homeland Security secretary Kirtsjen Nielsen defended the policy on Tuesday by saying that children were being used as pawns by criminals to cross the border.

She said adults crossing at the border had to be detained while they awaited court appearances before an immigration judge. In periods where asylum seekers were not detained, 90 per cent of asylum seekers didn’t show up for court, she said.

Reuters, McClatchy, Fairfax Media

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