The following is an excerpt from a letter from Bishop Kevin Vann. The letter, published by Orange County Catholic on June 28, calls on the federal government to sign legislation to sufficiently fund border-related humanitarian assistance. Congress adopted a funding bill on June 27.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I join my brother bishops in calling on the federal government to hear the cry of the poor and vulnerable:

The events of the past week – including photographs and reports of more deaths at the border and brutal conditions in detention – have exposed, once again, not only the brokenness of U.S. immigration laws but the brutality of their implementation. It’s no secret that United States immigration law has been in need of reform for decades. Yet what both sides of the political aisle have been slow to admit and even slower to act to correct are the progressively more punitive policies towards immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. These policies – and rhetoric – have taken an even more drastic turn for the worse at the direction of the current administration.

It needs to be repeated over and over again that seeking asylum is legal. Asylum seekers are turning themselves in at the border. It also bears repeating that there are viable and effective alternatives to detention of which the administration can and should avail itself.

The pictures from the border and reports from inside child detention camps and arguments over whether kids should be given soap and toothbrushes and other items basic to public health and human dignity – these are visible brutality and evidence of aggressive behavior not required by our laws. U.S. laws may be lacking but they don’t mandate cruel application.

Not only is such treatment not required by law, nor in keeping with the best of American values, but – more importantly – it runs fundamentally counter to our Catholic faith. Based on Catholic social teaching, not only does the Church, but also the U.S., has obligations to extend hospitality and welcome to those who cannot find a way to remain in their country of origin. We must never forget the words of Jesus: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

Full letter at Orange County Catholic.