Cardinal Dolan visited with attorneys, staff, immigrants and children separated from their parents on a tour of the Catholic Charities Immigration Services in lower Manhattan before meeting the media June 28.
“You being here today allows us to get some bad news and some good news out there,” said Cardinal Dolan in his opening remark to the media.
“The bad news, we’ve got some darkness in the United States today, especially as episodes of mistreatment of our immigrants becomes more and more known. Some of these episodes are downright inhumane, unbiblical and un-American.
“The good news is that Msgr. (Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities in the archdiocese), Catholic Charities and I are in the enterprise of trying to bring some good out of evil, bring some light out of darkness.”
Some 350 children separated from their parents were transported from the border to New York. Sixty children are in the care of Catholic Charities for meals, shelter, counseling, medical attention and education.
Cardinal Dolan spoke with seven of the children in a conference room after meeting with attorneys who are working to reunite the children with their parents. A week earlier, he met with children separated from their parents living in a former convent of a Bronx parish.
“Our priority is reunification,” said Mario Russell, director of Catholic Charities of New York’s Immigrant and Refugee Services Division. “The process for that at this point is going to court, go to immigration court with each child. That’s a slow process. It’s not the right process. The right process would be for the administration to say all these kids tomorrow should be reunified with their parents.
“The problem is the parents are in custody. How does that work? We’re concerned this will lead to family detention, which is not the solution.”
On his tour, Cardinal Dolan also watched Catholic Charities workers take calls from immigrants needing assistance in the New Americans Hotline Office and visited with more than 50 immigrants waiting for assistance in a room with a TV showing a World Cup match between Columbia and Senegal on Telemundo.
“You look at us as friends. We love you. We just want you to feel at home. We want you to feel safe here,” Cardinal Dolan told the immigrants as he kissed and held the baby of one of the immigrants in the waiting area.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was scheduled to join Cardinal Dolan on the tour and at the press conference, but was unable to attend due to illness. City officials toured the center and participated in the press conference.
“I’m very grateful to the city,” Cardinal Dolan said. “Thank God, we live in a city that is renowned for its welcome to the immigrant. Thank God, we have a great partnership with city leadership. We know he’s got our back and we work closely together, and we’re proud of that. We want to keep doing that because these challenges are towering and nobody can do it by himself or herself. So, we’ve got to work together.”
In 2017, Catholic Charities in the archdiocese provided 5,215 vulnerable immigrants with expert counsel and safeguarded them from exploitation; 701 refugees and asylees with employment and resettlement support; legal orientation to 4,047 unaccompanied children; legal representation to 4,160 adults and children; answered 52,790 calls for help promptly with accurate information in multiple languages; taught 820 newcomers English and civics; reunited 160 immigrants with their families; and helped 296 people obtain authorization to work.
Msgr. Sullivan, who was just back from visiting a respite center in McAllen, Texas, with other religious leaders, priests and clergy from New York, told CNY that this is a perfect time for the government to address this issue with the United States celebrating its independence.
“We are a country of immigrants,” Msgr. Sullivan said. “We’re stronger when we welcome immigrants and they become a part of the fabric of a society in a humane, fair way.”
“Let’s be clear. Catholic Charities and the Catholic Church are not in favor of illegal immigration. We are in favor of secure borders. Nobody is helped by illegal immigration. We need secure borders.
“We need a generous and legal immigration, and let’s understand that asylum is part of our legal system. If somebody comes here and says, ‘Hey, there is violence and persecution in my own country, I want to appeal to come here because it’s too dangerous there.’ That’s part of our legal system. So, that’s what’s happening here, and we’re kind of subverting what is part of our legal system to give people a fair hearing, so we can determine if there really is that deep level of violence, fear and persecution in their own country.”