(RNS) American Jesuits are pushing members of Congress who were educated at the Catholic order’s schools to pass aid for thousands of refugee children who have surged across the border in Texas in recent months, calling proposals to swiftly deport them “inhumane and an insult to American values.”

Father Thomas H. Smolich, S.J., has worked as the president of the Jesuit Conference of the United States since June 2006.

The Rev. Thomas H. Smolich has worked as the president of the Jesuit Conference of the United States since June 2006. Photo courtesy of Jesuit Conference of the United States

“I ask you, as a leader, a parent, and a Catholic, to uphold an American tradition of which we are all proud,” the Rev. Thomas Smolich, head of the U.S. Jesuit conference, wrote to House Speaker John Boehner and 42 other House members who graduated from Jesuit high schools and colleges.

“We must welcome the refugee, the victim of trafficking, the child who has been abused or abandoned,” Smolich wrote in the July 29 letter. “Let us follow in the footsteps of Jesus when he said, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’”

Since last fall, more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors have flooded across the U.S.-Mexico border, mainly in south Texas, most of them from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

The migrants are often driven out by endemic violence in their home countries and drawn to the U.S. by prospects of better economic opportunities or the chance to reunite with their families.

But the influx has created a humanitarian crisis that has become a political wedge issue.

Dealing with the children has drained the resources of U.S. border agencies, and President Obama asked Congress to provide $3.7 billion to deal with the crisis.

The Senate seemed amenable to passing a package, but the Republican-led House on Thursday (July 31) abandoned efforts to vote on a much smaller $659 million emergency funding measure. That proposal would have also curtailed an anti-trafficking law passed in 2008 under President George W. Bush, but some conservatives wanted tougher policies against the refugee children and immigrants in general.

The issue has become so contentious that when protesters in California surrounded busloads of immigrant children shouting for them to be deported, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrote a column comparing the demonstration to the KKK and to “Nativist mobs” of the 19th century.

“It was un-American; it was un-biblical; it was inhumane,” Dolan wrote. Conservative commentator Ann Coulter responded by calling Dolan a “moral showoff.”

The letter from Smolich to the 12 Republicans and 31 Democrats appeared to be an effort to appeal to the Catholic loyalties of the House members who were educated by the Jesuits — which is Pope Francis’ religious order.

Smolich noted that the Jesuits have been deeply involved in Central America for decades, and he reminded them that in 1989, six Jesuits, along with their housekeeper and her daughter, were murdered by “U.S.-trained Salvadoran military forces.”

As he wrote to Boehner, the violence has continued apace; “90 children are murdered or disappeared in Honduras every month,” Smolich wrote.

“This is the equivalent of eight children being executed in your Congressional district every thirty days,” he told Boehner, who represents Ohio’s Eighth Congressional District.

KRE/MG END GIBSON

9 Comments

  1. Unfortunately, Fr. Smolich, is speaking to heads with deaf ears when he attempts to be humanely reasonable with the likes of John Boehner. Boehner is too busy joking about communing on his Merlot wine and appeasing his do-nothing majority in order to retain his position as Speaker of the do-nothing House of Representatives to listen to Smolich any more than he listens to any Democrats.

    It doesn’t matter whether they are graduates of any Jesuit institutions, the only thing that matters to the vast majority of politicians is to solidify their “base” so they can become wealthy in their public job.

    It is these Republicans who have the nerve to complain about our public safety net for those in real need while they are living supremely luxuriously off the public in their public positions–in addition to all the wealth they obtain by selling themselves to the highest bidders like the Koch brothers once their fool constituents have elected and reelected them.

    • Ha ha. The order is in the throes of a catastrophic demographic implosion. In the United States, there were about 9,500 Jesuit fathers in 1965. There were about 3,500 last I checked and their rate of recruitment is such that it’s a reasonable wager that they’re census will sink to 900 fathers eventually. They have long been a teaching order and if I am not mistaken their charitable activities were undertaken in the course of mission work. As is, they can no longer hold the institutions they founded because there are too few of them and the order is shot through with heretics and sexual deviants.

  2. If Jesuits are so involved in American politics in that they feel they can whisper their political beliefs into the ears of Congress, then why are they tax exempt? They are misquoting the Bible here. The last thing anyone should do is to let the Jesuits be the moral authority when it comes to children, if you know what I mean….

  3. Somewhat familiar with the assorted Catholic orders, I would characterize the Jesuits as the ‘CIA’ of the Roman Catholic Church, and rather not to be trusted.

  4. The gate crashers down in Texas are not ‘refugees’. There have been no natural disasters or political shocks in Central America of late. They are merely poor countries with high crime rates, and they were in worse condition on both scales twenty years ago. They are economic migrants responding to political signaling.

    This isn’t that difficult, but it has fried the circuits of the church-o-cracy (either because they’re thick or they’re disingenuous).

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