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Bishop Tobin Calls for Conscientious Objection for Immigration Agents

(PROVIDENCE, R.I.)-The Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of Providence and 15 pastors who serve the state’s diverse immigrant community have urged Stephen Farquharson , Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE), Boston Regional Office, to declare a moratorium on immigration raids in Rhode Island.  The clergy also encouraged ICE to allow agents to excuse themselves from participating in raids if such actions are not in conformity with their faith and conscience.

“We the undersigned…urge you to declare a moratorium on immigration raids in the State of Rhode Island, until our nation can implement a comprehensive and just reform of our immigration laws,” wrote Bishop Tobin and Catholic priests.   “It is our hope that such reform will make immigration raids obsolete. Until then, we believe that raids on the immigrant community are unjust, unnecessary, and counter-productive.”

“What we have witnessed is that the police action of ICE against immigrants has divided the community, instilled fear in our streets, disrupted the everyday life of good people and separated family members, innocent of any crime, from one another,” the bishop and clergy added. “The confusing and secretive detention of those arrested has further complicated the situation. As religious leaders concerned for our people we would be negligent of our pastoral duties if we didn’t speak out against these unjust government policies and practices.”

The Bishop and pastors also urged ICE officials to question the morality of their participation in immigration raids. They believe that agents should not be forced to participate in such raids if agents conclude that such actions are immoral or contrary to their personal or religious beliefs.

“…we encourage the agents and staff of ICE to evaluate the morality of their participation in immigration raids in the context of their faith and sanctity of their conscience,” the Bishop and pastors wrote. ” If their discernment leads them to the conclusion that they cannot participate in such raids in good conscience, we urge them not to do so. If ICE agents refuse to participate in immigration raids in conformity with their faith and conscience, we urge the Federal Government to fully respect the well-founded principles of conscientious objection.”

From the press release on the web site of the Diocese of Providence.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXVIII, No. 6, November-December 2008.