Bishop Kevin Vann has sent a letter to all Diocese of Orange parishes directing them to be prepared in the event of an encounter with immigration enforcement officials at or near a church, school, hospital or clinic.

The letter went out after reports of a van believed to belong to Immigration and Customs Enforcement was photographed on the Christ Cathedral campus Feb. 17.

It turned out that the van belonged to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and an officer was at the cathedral to participate in an honor guard at a veteran’s funeral service. But the report, which was subsequently publicized by Rep. Lou Correa’s office last week, created a stir among Orange County Catholics, said Greg Walgenbach, the diocese’s Director of Life, Justice and Peace.

ICE officials are “doing everything to be responsive and transparent,” said ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice, reiterating that ICE has policies telling officers to avoid sensitive locations including schools, houses of worship and hospitals; religious observations such as weddings and funerals; and marches, rallies or parades.

“When people put out misinformation, it creates panic and puts our officers and the general public at risk,” Kice said. “We ask the public to reach out to us and verify before you vilify.”

Earlier in the year, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles along with the dioceses of Orange and San Bernardino teamed up to produce a 50-page informational package.

“There’s a skit we do at parishes to show people how to react when ICE comes to your door,” Walgenbach said.

You don’t open the door – you ask to see a warrant under the door and you have a right to remain silent, he said.

Vann’s letter goes a step further and specifically states several steps parishes should take including appointing a “rapid responder” who will be equipped to speak to ICE officials seeking permission to enter a church and designating others to document any interactions with immigration officials with written notes and cellphone photos and videos.

Catholic Charities, which provides a number of programs for immigrants and refugees in Orange County also has ramped up its efforts, hiring 11 new staff members and a full-time immigration lawyer, Walgenbach said.

Full story at OC Register.