Alaskan bishops respond to president’s executive order on immigration

Alaska’s Catholic bishops issued a statement on Feb. 3 regarding President Donald Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order regarding immigration.

The letter was signed by Anchorage Archbishop Paul Etienne, Fairbanks Bishop Chad Zielinski, Juneau Bishop Edward Burns and Anchorage Archbishop Emeritus Roger Schwietz. Below is the full text.


Last Friday, January 27, President Trump issued an EXECUTIVE ORDER entitled: PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES. We, the Catholic Bishops of Alaska, find the recent Executive Order troubling in that it violates our longstanding practice as a nation with fundamental human principles of justice to ‘welcome the stranger’ (Matthew 25:35). As a nation founded in part on religious liberty, and that all were to be treated as equal, we are capable of much better. We are called to a higher standard to work for righteousness, to be merciful and to be peacemakers. (Matthew 5: 3-10) These values are at the heart of the common good, which is the goal of all governmental institutions.

As Catholics, we appreciate the heightened concern regarding Christians who have been persecuted because of their faith. Many have been murdered and witnessed the destruction of their places of worship. However, we are troubled by any actions that would target a particular group of persons based upon the ethnicity, language they speak, the religion they profess and their country of origin.

The United States, with its strong humanitarian legacy, has always been a leader in refugee protection. Since 1980, and the passage of the Refugee Act, over 3 million refugees from war torn countries throughout the world have been able to rebuild their lives in the U.S. Today, the world is facing the worst displacement crisis in recorded history with over 65 million individuals displaced and 21 million refugees fleeing persecution and violence. The work of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and their affiliate here in Alaska is now more important than ever.

We share a common voice with our brother bishops from the USCCB who issued a statement on January 31, “While we also recognize that the United States government has a duty to protect the security of its people, we must nevertheless employ means that respect both religious liberty for all, and the urgency of protecting the lives of those who desperately flee violence and persecution. It is our conviction as followers of the Lord Jesus that welcoming the stranger and protecting the vulnerable lie at the core of the Christian life.”

As we ponder in our hearts and minds the January 15, 2017 message of Pope Francis, given on the World Day of MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES, where he said, “no one is a stranger in God’s family” and “Each person is precious; persons are more important than things, and the worth of an institution is measured by the way it treats the life and dignity of human beings, particularly when they are vulnerable, as in the case of child migrants.” May this be a call to action where we move from our comfort zones and welcome the stranger in our midst.

'Alaskan bishops respond to president’s executive order on immigration' have 11 comments

  1. February 2017 @ 5:37 am Keith

    We are called to spread the Gospel, the goodness of God to “all” the world. The United States is not God’s chosen country. Let us get off of our high horse if we truly which to be a great nation in the eyes of God. Jesus came to fulfill the promise to Abraham of a worldwide kingdom. The apostles and early Christians did a pretty good job of spreading Christ’s kingdom. They immigrated. As Christians we can not isolate ourselves and still be missionaries.


  2. February 2017 @ 1:09 pm Gene

    Thank you Bishops. I think you are right on.

    Thank you for your courage. You will not be popular with some.


  3. February 2017 @ 6:05 pm John

    I think the argument against the executive order has been oversimplified. It’s more complicated than slamming the door on a reasonable number of refugees who yearn for the same values we have. Wanting to leave something bad is not the same as wanting to join something good. I struggle for an historical precedent- I am not sure there is one. In the years following the overthrow of the Shah of Iran those immigrants tended to be those too “westernized” for the oppressive religious culture – and thus, they fit in well here. Today’s eastern immigrant is much less attuned- or interested- in a tolerant (or Christian) environment. Letting in more than we can assimilate is foolhardy and shortsighted.


    • February 2017 @ 9:32 pm Isabelle

      I agree 100% John.


    • February 2017 @ 9:12 am Hilary

      The US has 325.5 million people living within its borders. We can’t assimilate a group of 20K? Really?

      And just how do you gauge today’s eastern immigrant? By what criteria?


  4. February 2017 @ 5:52 pm David

    Thank you for your inspirational words,

    Let brotherly love continue.
    Do not neglect hospitality…

    Though an army encamp against me,
    my heart will not fear;
    Though war be waged upon me,
    even then will I trust.
    The Lord is my light and my salvation.

    God Bless


  5. February 2017 @ 4:01 pm Mike

    How does a nation that has a responsibility to protect its citizens from those who seek to destroy it, actually fulfill its responsibility in doing so? Would it be by enforcing the rule of law?


    • February 2017 @ 4:53 pm George Peterson Fairbanks Alaska

      The rule of law was already being enforced. These new policies are discriminatory and they persecute people who are running from terror and looking for refuge. Men, women and children fleeing for their very lives are being denied help.
      Last February Pope Francis stated “”A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel.”
      Last week Pope Francis stated that it was hypocritical to “call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee.”
      I am Catholic. I stand with my Pope.


      • February 2017 @ 6:47 am Tony

        Let us not forget that when the focus shifts from finding the “bad guys” to all immigrants — the chances that the bad guys getting through security measures just get better.


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