What Pope Francis Had to Say About Trump’s Immigrant Detention Centers

Pope Francis waving

Pope Francis | Franco Origlia/Getty Images

As Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policies make international headlines, world leaders are criticizing the U.S. president. Some have even begun to use plain language.

On June 20, British Prime Minister Theresa May said, “the pictures of children being held in what appear to be cages are deeply disturbing,” The Guardian reported.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Reuters released the same day, Pope Francis called the policy of separating children from parents “immoral.” The head of the Catholic church made several more points in that vein. Here are the key takeaways from Francis’s interview.

1. Francis: Taking children from families is ‘contrary to our Catholic values.’

When asked about the Trump policy of putting migrant adults in jails and their children in detention centers, Pope Francis referred the reporter to statements by Catholic bishops.

The archbishop of San Antonio (Texas) was among the most vocal in his criticism on June 14. “Refugee children belong to their parents, not to the government or other institutions,” Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller wrote on Twitter. “To steal children from their parents is a grave sin, immoral (and) evil.”

Francis affirmed it was “contrary to our Catholic values” and did not back away from statements by church leaders in America. “Let it be clear that in these things … I am on the side of the bishops’ conference,” he told Reuters.

2. ‘Populism is not the solution.’

While U.S. policies got the pope’s attention in recent weeks, Francis has addressed similar problems in Europe. On June 10, the populist Italian government refused to accept a ship of African migrants.

Francis acknowledged the broader trend in world politics. “Populism does not resolve things,” he said in the interview. “What resolves things is acceptance, study, prudence.”

Ivanka Trump, Melania Trump, Donald Trump, Pope Francis

Pope Francis and the Trumps | Evan Vucci/AFP/Getty Images

3. Populists are creating fear and ‘psychosis’ over immigration.

As he spoke to Reuters, Pope Francis addressed the tendency of populists to stoke fear about immigrant populations. (In America, we’ve seen this in the discussion of MS-13 gang members.)

“Some governments are working on it, and people have to be settled in the best possible way, but creating psychosis is not the cure.”

What Francis said next refers to not only the European immigration crisis, but America’s as well.

I believe that you cannot reject people who arrive. You have to receive them, help them, look after them, accompany them and then see where to put them, but throughout all of Europe.

Americans overwhelmingly oppose child-parent separation.

Pope Francis’s comments will likely be received well in the U.S. In recent polling, a large majority opposed the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy. In a Quinnipiac poll released June 18, 67% of Americans said they were against separating migrant children from parents.

Likewise, nearly 80% said “Dreamers” deserve to stay and a path to citizenship. Meanwhile, nearly 6 in 10 Americans said a wall on the Mexican border would not stop illegal immigration.

Whites with no college education and Republicans remain the only groups that support Trump’s immigration policy. In Quinnipiac polling throughout 2018, support for Dreamers held between 77-81%.

As pressure on Trump and the GOP mounts, the party does not appear to be listening to voters. That’s probably why Democrats have overperformed in elections since the start of 2017 — and why the GOP risks losing its majority in November.

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