The president of the Catholic Bishops group Wednesday called President Donald Trump's new asylum rules "immoral," while at least one bishop suggested "canonical penalties" for anyone involved in carrying out the administration's rules.
The comments come two days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered immigration judges to stop granting asylum to most victims of domestic abuse and gun violence.
"At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life," Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "The attorney general's recent decision elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection.
"This decision negates decades of precedents that have provided protection to women fleeing domestic violence," DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, continued. "We urge courts and policy makers to respect and enhance, not erode, the potential of our asylum system to preserve and protect the right to life."
Sessions in May announced a zero-tolerance policy toward people who enter the United States illegally. It allows the prosecution of adults separately from children when families seek asylum at the border. The children are placed in custody at a branch of the Health and Human Services Department while the adults are processed.
DiNardo in a statement also condemned the separation of families at the border.
"Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma," he said. "Families are the foundational element of our society, and they must be able to stay together. While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral."
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