By Joe Bukuras, The Catholic University of America
The following is an opinion piece. Clarifying Catholicism does not endorse political candidates, and we are planning on featuring a Catholic Case for Biden in the future.
“My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” Lincoln would have been a good Catholic. If he were alive today, Honest Abe might just have been the perfect consultant for this country. The deep rooted, philosophical divisions among the current American electorate resemble a split to the likes of the 1860’s. The political cry then, rang ironically the same as it does today: “Not a person!”
Christ’s teachings are clear on the issue of life. “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” Christ’s teaching beautifully accompanies the Father’s command in Exodus, “Thou shall not kill.”
Promoting a culture of life is what is at stake in the 2020 election. The pro-abortion rally cry “Not a person!” can stand no more. Abortion is anti-science, anti-reason, anti-American, and anti-Catholic.
Over 60 million innocent, defenseless children have been brutally and mercilessly slaughtered since Roe v. Wade. 8 million people were killed in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. In the Armenian genocide, 1.5 million people were killed. 800,000 were murdered in the Rwandan genocide. The Bosnian genocide claimed 100,000 human lives. If you added the number of victims of all these genocides together, the sum wouldn’t even come close to the number of babies the United States has killed since 1973. Yes, abortion is the pre-eminent issue of this election. For Catholics, this election must be about ending abortion: the direct killing of an innocent human being.
President Trump kept his promise to fight for the defenseless in the womb. Among the 157 pro-life Trump judicial confirmations, two men who respect the dignity of life now sit upon the highest court in the land: Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Gorsuch. The President signed a bill that would allow states to defund Planned Parenthood’s Title X funds. He is stopping tax payer dollars from funding abortions overseas by reinstating the Mexico City Policy. The Trump administration ordered the Department of Health and Human services to open the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within the Office for Civil Rights. The new division will protect the rights of those who refuse to take part in abortion. President Trump recently re-commissioned his pro-life coalition which is headed by two pro-life champions—Marjorie Dannenfelser, a formerly pro-choice woman whose conversion to saving unborn lives and the Catholic faith led her to run an organization that elects pro-life women to office and Father Frank Pavone, the national director for Priests for Life. These are just a few of the countless victories Donald Trump has won fighting for the dignity of life. President Trump has done a great service to the body of Christ by standing up for the unborn. He has upheld the dignity of babies by rolling back policy which puts the defenseless in danger. While succeeding in this, he also has upheld the dignity of the American people by progressing through these legal battles constitutionally.
Catholic critics of Trump accuse him of pro-life fraud. Their claims usually center around a theme of Trump’s refusal to focus on “all life” issues such as human trafficking, immigrant family separation, maternal health, and incarceration. Each of these issues are necessary for Catholics to carefully consider when voting. If President Trump really doesn’t care about immigrants, women’s health, incarcerated peoples, or family separation, then Catholics should join the fight against Trump. I don’t think it is wise for a Catholic to vote for a pro-life President if he hates immigrants, has zero regard for women’s health, brushes incarcerated people under the rug, and is destroying the family unit, which is the most basic unit of any society. If these accusations are true, then the decision to oppose Trump would be perfectly reasonable.
So, it’s time to take a look at the record. Is President Trump’s record guided by a consistent life ethic or is he just a “morally bankrupt and demonstrably anti-life…misogynist?”
Under the Trump administration, the Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team Initiative caught twice the number of human traffickers and successfully prosecuted a 75% increase of defendants. Trump’s DOJ took down the internet’s top organization responsible for prostitution and sex trafficking advertisements. Trump has committed resources to collaborative efforts between Mexican and American border agents to deter and root out sex trafficking initiatives. The Department of Health and Human Services began funding the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Their successes included 14,419 referrals to appropriate services. The DOJ has been consistently giving grants to organizations that aid victims of Human Trafficking. Trump’s Department of Transportation is giving 4 million dollars to transit agencies in order to educate on human trafficking and other public safety issues. Donald Trump oversaw all of this.
President Trump successfully passed criminal justice reform. The First Step Act supports prisoners to participate in programs to overcome recidivism. Thousands of prisoners sentenced before August 2010 for crack cocaine crimes will have the opportunity for a reduced penalty. The bill would grant mercy to certain drug offenders with life sentences for the three strikes rule. Federal judges are given more freedom when sentencing drug offenders to focus on rehabilitation. Thousands of prisoners have been enrolled in rehabilitation programs and hundreds of prisoners have had reduced sentences or even been released. The House of Representatives passed The First Step Act with a vote of 358-36. The bill passed in the Senate 87-12 and President Trump signed it into law in December 2018. The Trump 2020 budget allotted more than 500 million dollars to multiple federal programs to support prisoners after their release into society. Last year, the Department of Education provided 28 million dollars to a program which would allow recently incarcerated individuals to pursue a college education. President Trump cares about incarcerated lives and these results confirm that.
Contrary to what Planned Parenthood propagandizes, abortion is not healthcare. Real women’s health issues, however, have been aggressively addressed by the Trump administration. The Trump administration has allocated 6 billion dollars to address the opioid crisis. The Trump FY 2020 budget specifically addresses pregnant and postpartum women through the new Maternal Opioid Misuse Model (MOM). The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services explains that “by supporting the coordination of clinical care and the integration of other services critical for health, wellbeing, and recovery, the MOM model has the potential to improve quality of care and reduce costs for mothers and infants.” During Trump’s State of the Union Address in February, he called on Congress to provide 50 million dollars to fund neonatal research. In President Trump’s FY 2020 Budget proposal, he requested “$5.8 billion to serve all projected participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and children.” The SSNP provides nutritional food packages, nutritional education, and immunization referrals to low income and nutritionally endangered, pregnant women, post-pregnant women, and children as well. It’s clear Donald Trump has taken concrete steps to improve the healthcare of women in this country.
President Trump has also been upholding the dignity of human lives at the Border. That’s right. I’ll say it again. Contrary to what MSNBC, CNN, and Democratic politicians have been accusing the President of, Donald Trump has been enforcing the law and keeping families together at the border.
In order to understand the crisis at the border one must comprehend the Flores Settlement Agreement. In 1997, the Clinton administration signed an agreement with immigration activists regarding unaccompanied minors (under 18) who crossed the border illegally. The agreement says that any unaccompanied minor who enters the United States illegally must be released from the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s custody “without unnecessary delay.” “Unnecessary delay” was interpreted to mean about 20 days. After about 20 days, these minors, who are awaiting legal immigration proceedings, are released into the interior of the United States to live with a family member or legal guardian. They are given a case officer, and their legal custodian must help them get back for their court date. After 9/11, the Immigration and Naturalization Service was decommissioned and the duties of INS was given to the Department of Homeland Security. Illegal, unaccompanied minors then became an issue the HHS would deal with. When illegal families would cross the border, the Obama administration began a policy of holding the families in facilities indefinitely until their immigration proceedings began. The Obama administration was sued by activist groups for this practice. In this 2015 lawsuit, an Obama appointed, California district judge ruled that Flores not only applied to unaccompanied minors, but also to minors who came here with their parents or guardians. Simply put, the Obama administration could not hold these illegal families together in the same facility. The reason being that the law deemed it unsafe to have minors in the same facilities as adults who were not their family members. So, the Obama administration chose to practice “Catch and Release.” “Catch and Release” is a policy in which illegal immigrant families who were apprehended by border authorities would be given an immigration proceeding court date by U.S. officials and then released into the interior of the United States until their court date comes. These court dates can be months, even years into the future because of the numerous pending immigration court proceedings that have already been ordered. From the available data many of these families disappear into the United States, never to appear for their court dates. During FY 18, there were almost 50,000 In Absentia orders. An In Absentia order is when the illegal immigrant, who has been let into the interior of the U.S., fails to show for his/her legal hearing. This is a major, unaddressed problem which has been adding to the millions of illegal immigrants currently living within our borders. Some of these illegal immigrants put Americans at extreme risk. The drug cartels, sex traffickers, and repeat offending criminals have been using these loopholes to enter the United States and take advantage of our free society. Many of these people are harmless and just looking for a better, safer life within our great country.
Unfortunately, when people choose to cross illegally, break the law by skipping their court date, and disappear into the country, this makes it very hard for U.S. officials to keep Americans safe and uphold the law. Our laws are what make this country a great place to seek asylum. If there were no laws or borders, there’d be no asylum to be sought. So, by crossing the border illegally and breaking U.S. law by skipping court dates, immigrants are undermining the same system which they are seeking to benefit from. If illegal immigration isn’t solved, soon there won’t be any asylum to be sought. The interior of the United States will be no safer than the violence ridden countries these people are fleeing from.
The option that the Trump administration wishes to choose is the one which keeps families together and also upholds our constitution. The administration wants to hold illegal families who cross the border in well resourced, residential facilities while they await their court hearings, while maintaining their “zero tolerance policy” on illegal immigration. This way, the U.S. will be able to keep families together, keep track of them while they’re here, and uphold the dignity of our laws. Unfortunately, at least for now, this option is impossible to achieve. The current law doesn’t allow for families to be held together during the pendency of their immigration hearings. The regulations of Flores and many other laws prohibit these minors from being held in criminal holding facilities. There are also specific rules barring the co-housing of minors and adults; especially adults who aren’t family members or other criminals. According to the HHS, regulations from Flores require these minors be held in shelters which provide “housing, nutrition, physical and mental healthcare, educational services, and recreational activities such as television and sports, and provide an environment on par with facilities in the child welfare system that house American children.” These DHS holding facilities, that hold the parents or guardians accompanying the minor, are criminal holding facilities. These kids can’t be held there.
This left the Trump administration with the last choice to enforce the law in efforts to solve the illegal immigration problem. While the parents are being detained, the kids are sent to these aforementioned facilities which are overseen by the Health and Human Services Department. This is the “family separation” facade that everyone has been attacking Trump about. The truth is President Trump opposed the Flores loopholes and supported congressional action to change them so that illegal immigrant families would be held together at residential holding facilities while awaiting their court proceedings. Unfortunately, congress couldn’t agree on a new mandate. What else is new?
So, President Trump took action to keep families together through Executive Order. The Executive Order which was issued in June of 2018 directs the DHS “to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations, [to] maintain custody of alien families during the pendency of any criminal improper entry or immigration proceedings involving their members.” The Executive Order directs the DoD to provide the DHS with “any existing facilities available for the housing and care of alien families and shall construct such facilities if necessary and consistent with law.” Furthermore, “Heads of executive departments and agencies shall, to the extent consistent with law, make available to the Secretary, for the housing and care of alien families pending court proceedings for improper entry, any facilities that are appropriate for such purposes.” In the Executive Order, President Trump directed AG Jeff Sessions to “promptly file a request with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to modify the Settlement Agreement in Flores v. Sessions, CV 85-4544 (“Flores settlement”), in a manner that would permit the Secretary, under present resource constraints, to detain alien families together throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings for improper entry or any removal or other immigration proceedings.”
The request was filed in June of 2018. The same Judge who ruled on Flores in 2015, who added the accompanied minors change, ruled on this mandate in 2019. In September, Judge Dolly Gee ruled against the Trump administration’s request to change Flores and struck down his Executive Order. Flores could possibly be brought to the Supreme Court in the future for a final ruling.
In the meantime, in order to maintain the “Zero Tolerance Policy” and keep families together, the Trump administration implemented the Migrant Protection Protocols. MPP is a government action where, “certain foreign individuals [illegally] entering or seeking admission to the U.S. from Mexico” can be held in Mexico while they wait for their immigration proceedings. MPP does not apply to unaccompanied minors.
President Trump cares about keeping families together. All of the accusations against Trump for alleged viciously separating immigrant families at the border is a lie. These assails are just liberal propaganda to attack the President’s chances at re-election in 2020. If congressional Democrats really cared about the migrants at the border as much as they say they do, then they would have worked with House Republicans to pass bills which closed the Flores loopholes. Unfortunately, not a single Democrat voted for the GOP proposed bill which would have solved the Flores loopholes.
President Trump’s policy follows a consistent life ethic. This administration has gained majority Catholic support because of its pro-life policy. Catholic Criticism of Trump’s policy just isn’t supported by the evidence. When the President’s actions in office are closely examined, the record shows that Trump’s policy has been strongly consistent with Catholic Social Teaching.
In the United States Conference for Catholic Bishop’s Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the Bishops acknowledge the duty of Catholics to fight for all issues where life is threatened. President Trump has promoted a political agenda which our Catholic church can be proud of. His administration has remembered the human dignity of the prisoner, improved women’s health, allocated resources to fight the opioid crisis, kept Americans safe by upholding the dignity of the immigration system, and kept illegal immigrant families together at the border. Still, the American Bishops reaffirm that this election cycle “the threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed.”
Every 30 seconds an innocent, unborn baby is killed in the United States of America. That’s almost 3,000 innocent lives claimed every single day. Donald Trump has been a pro-life champion on the pre-eminent political issue for Christ’s church.
Those little babies become members of the body of Christ from the moment of their conception. Each Democratic Presidential candidate on the debate stage proudly and unabashedly supports the direct killing of these innocent, unborn lives on demand. We can’t support candidates who push that merciless, anti-life policy. All Catholics, as members of the body of Christ, are indebted to God for blessing this country with an administration that has been heroically fighting to end abortion.
I am not making an argument for the canonization of Donald Trump. I am, however, encouraging all Catholics to band together this election cycle and vote for saving the most vulnerable among us. The fact of the matter is President Trump is the most pro-life president ever. He is a bulldozer for pro-life policy. This presidential election is one that will require our Catholic faith to guide us in voting. Catholics have an obligation to end abortion, spread Christ’s gospel and keep the American dream alive. Let’s do it legally and peacefully at the ballot box this November. A vote for President Trump is a vote for upholding the dignity of every human life. Catholics must never stop fighting for life until the rally cry “not a person” is accepted no more.
https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/History%20and%20Genealogy/Our%20History/ INS%20History/INSHistory.pdf https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/assets/flores_settlement_final_plus_extension_of_settlem ent011797.pdf