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Catholic bishops issue scathing statement on Trump's family separation policy

People hold signs to protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order to detain children crossing the southern U.S. border and separating families outside of City Hall in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 7, 2018.

PATRICK T. FALLON/REUTERS

MIAMI -- More than 300 Catholic bishops from across the U.S. gathered Wednesday for their Spring Assembly in Fort Lauderdale, where they made a strong political statement against several immigration policies of the Trump administration, CBS Miami reports. A statement, read by Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield on behalf of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, said the bishops take issue with Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision to limit asylum seekers who are fleeing domestic abuse or gang violence from trying to stay in the U.S.

"These vulnerable women will now face return to the extreme dangers of domestic violence in their home country. This decision negates decades of precedence that have provided protection to women fleeing domestic violence," Blandsfield read.

The bishops also said the Trump administration's policy of separating parents from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border needs to stop.

"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.

"Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral," Blansfield said.

After the statement was read, Cardinal DiNardo asked the crowd of bishops: "Brothers, do I have your support for this statement?" Applause rang out.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in an interview several days ago that it's a matter of law.

"That's why they're separated," she said. "They're breaking the law. They're coming across the border and they're breaking the law. In the United States, if you break the law, you go to jail and you're separated from your family."

Thomas Wenski, the Archbishop of Miami, said the church should urge Catholics to vote for candidates who want fair and humane immigration reform.

"We have to tell our parishioners to call them out and hold them accountable," Wenski said.

Wenski said the policies are misguided.

"We have to make America great, as our president says, but we're not going to make America great by making America mean," Wenski added.

One U.S. bishop from Arizona, Edward Weisenburger, had an even stronger suggestion. He suggested any Catholics involved in separating children from their parents might be stripped of their ability to receive the sacraments or possibly be excommunicated from the church.

CBS Miami reached out to a number of South Florida legislators for comment on the bishops' statement. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz responded, saying, "The Catholic Bishops gathered in Fort Lauderdale Speak for the vast majority of Americans who are horrified by President Trump's cruel and immoral immigration policies. Separating children from their parents, and refusing asylum to women seeking refuge from domestic violence is not just dangerous, it is monstrous and inhumane."