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Cardinal Cupich takes stand on immigration enforcement

Cardinal Cupich today told priests in the Archdiocese of Chicago to keep immigration officials off Church property unless they have a warrant.

In a letter issued to priests, Cardinal Cupich outlined several resources the Church offers to immigrants, and then held firm against allowing Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials from entering Church property without a warrant.

"If they do not have a warrant and it is not a situation that someone is in imminent danger, tell them politely they cannot come on the premises, ask them for their contact information, and tell them to contact the (Archdiocese of Chicago) Office of Legal Services," Cardinal Cupich wrote in a letter dated Feb. 28. "You should then contact Legal Services to report this interaction."

Many of the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants have been living in fear since the federal government last week issued guidelines on enforcing President Donald Trump's Jan. 25 executive orders on immigration.

The new guidelines allow federal agents to deport undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of — or charged with — committing any crime. The policy is a departure from that of former President Barack Obama, who allowed deportations of undocumented individuals convicted of a serious crime.

The new procedures issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also seek to expand "expedited removal," which bypasses the usual hearing process for individuals before deporting them.

Cardinal Cupich acknowledged the current "emotionally trying times," and asked pastors to support their parishioners.

"We need to stand together and clearly make it known that the Archdiocese of Chicago supports the dignity of all persons without regard to immigration status," he wrote.

Cardinal Cupich echoed sentiments expressed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C., when the chairman of the group's migration committee released a statement about the immigration enforcement memoranda issued by DHS. Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas wrote the new policy would cause unneeded turmoil.

"The policies contained in these memoranda will needlessly separate families, upend peaceful communities, endanger the lives and safety of the most vulnerable among us, break down the trust that currently exists between many police departments and immigrant communities, and sow great fear in those communities," Bishop Vásquez wrote on Feb. 23.

However, Cardinal Cupich did not authorize pastors to declare Catholic churches as sanctuaries for immigrants, and reminded them of an archdiocesan policy that forbids anyone other than assigned priests to live in a rectory or other church facility without written permission of the appropriate regional vicar.

The Cardinal's letter comes on the heels of a statement he released late last month after Trump issued a travel ban that prohibited refugees and migrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and from entering the United States. A federal court later found the ban unconstitutional.

In that statement, Cardinal Cupich warned "the world is watching as we abandon our commitments to American values. These actions give aid and comfort to those who would destroy our way of life. They lower our estimation in the eyes of the many peoples who want to know America as a defender of human rights and religious liberty, not a nation that targets religious populations and then shuts its doors on them."