Cupich Says Church Has Limits In Protecting Undocumented Immigrants | WBEZ
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Cardinal Cupich Says Church Has Limits In Protecting Undocumented Immigrants

Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich warned so-called “DREAMers” that the Catholic Church will not be able to protect them if Congress fails to pass legislation to prevent them from being deported.

In an interview with WBEZ’s Morning Shift, Cupich discussed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has granted legal protections to about 800,000 illegal immigrants who entered the country as children. 

“The United States is the only country they’ve ever known,” Cupich said. “It would really be a tragedy and cruel to have them go back to a country that’s not familiar to them.”

Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced it would end the DACA program that began in 2012 under then-President Barack Obama. Since the announcement, reports indicate that Congressional Democrats and President Donald Trump have been working on a deal to protect DACA recipients, known as “DREAMers,” from being deported.

In a conversation with Morning Shift host Tony Sarabia recorded on Friday, Cupich explained why Congress needs to protect “DREAMers.” He also discussed declining enrollment in Catholic schools and his plans to help curb gun violence. Below are highlights from the conversation. 

Why the Chicago Archdiocese can’t promise sanctuary for undocumented immigrants

Cardinal Blase Cupich: I put out a directive a few months back because this question came up with regard to sanctuary status. I indicated that we cannot promise sanctuary status to people who are undocumented simply because we would be making a promise we can’t keep. 

Tony Sarabia: Why is it a promise you can’t keep?

Cupich: Well because — let’s play this out a little bit. If a duly-authorized officer of the law comes with a document saying that they are allowed on the premises to do searches, and they come onto a property — a church or a school or wherever we have people housed — we can’t promise those undocumented people that they will be given sanctuary and that we can protect them from being taken from the premises. We don’t have the authority to do that. We don’t have the ability to enforce that. So to pretend that we can is a false promise we should not make. 

But I also said that if members from the immigration office come to a parish, they should be accommodated every courtesy, but they need to have a warrant in order for that to take place — they need to have status in order to come on the premises. Absent that, I told our priests need to be polite to these officials but ask them to leave until those documents were presented.

On declining enrollment at Catholic schools 

Cupich: We’ve seen falling enrollment, as well, in the public schools. The birth rates are down. We know that. That’s a matter that we can track demographically. 

But as far as we’re concerned, the cost of our schools is something that’s out of reach for a lot of people. The archdioceses invest … over $30 million a year through our parishes and archdioceses in order to support our schools. And then we have other agencies, such as Big Shoulders, who also help a great deal. 

That’s not enough, however, to even the playing field for people who live in poverty to pay the tuition. We can grant a good number of scholarships out of those funds, and we raised some in our own capital campaign. But it is a fact that people who want school choice don’t have the freedom to have school choice when in fact it’s just a matter of charity helping them with tuition.

On his plan to make small investments to help counteract gun violence

Cupich: I wanted to make sure that we responded to the grassroot initiatives that were being done in parishes, and it was recommended to me that we put together a fund that would help with resourcing with those kind of projects. We’re going to be announcing some of those in the near future. …

They would be things such as summer programs for youth to get them off the streets, after-school programs, ways in which people would be schooled about how to deal with the aftermath of violence in terms of counseling, grieving seminars that are done in some of our parishes — it’s the whole gamut of ways in which not only the violence can be prevented but how it can be addressed once people are victimized by it.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Click on the 'play' button above to hear the entire segment.

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