When Jesus was born He was hunted by the government, forcing His family to flee the country and seek refuge, Bishop Robert W. McElroy told an estimated 1,000 people who gathered outside the gate of a federal detention facility.

“I grieve because I think of the fact that if Mary, Joseph and Jesus had come to our border last week as refugees, the child Jesus would have been ripped from their arms and put in a cage,” he told them.

On June 23, Bishop McElroy and Auxiliary Bishop John P. Dolan joined dozens of faith leaders from across California who rallied outside the Otay Mesa Detention Center, where immigrants are held, to support families that had been separated after entering the country illegally.

The demonstration came three days after President Donald Trump issued an executive order halting the practice of separating the families after searing photos and audio recordings of desperate, crying children sparked widespread public outrage.

The order, however, continues the president’s “zero tolerance” policy, which calls for the criminal prosecution of anyone entering unlawfully into the U.S. The Pentagon announced that it was preparing to build temporary camps for detained immigrants at two military bases to house as many as 20,000.

Immigration authorities struggled, meanwhile, to explain how they were going to reunite 2,300 children in their custody with their parents.

The issue of immigration is a deeply divisive one, differences sharpened in recent years by the pronouncements of then-candidate Trump and his actions as president.

“We must understand the dignity of every single human person,” said Bishop McElroy. “That all of us together are brothers and sisters, and that is the foundational assertion of who we are as a people and what we believe.”

Working through Catholic Charities, the Diocese of San Diego is helping Dreamers renew their DACA permits, helping families to prepare for possible detention or deportation (particularly important for undocumented parents with U.S.-born children); and providing legal support for migrants in detention or in deportation proceedings.

At the same time, in response to the surge of families being detained, the diocese is working on a plan to provide temporary housing for mothers and their children who are released by immigration authorities and are able to legally stay in the country pending the outcome of their case.

The San Diego Organizing Project, a coalition of faith organizations, along with PICO California, organized the demonstration at the detention center and a candlelight vigil the night before at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in San Ysidro. Catholic priests, pastors, rabbis and Buddhist nuns, among other clergy, participated in both events, some traveling from northern California to the border.

As they marched toward the detention center, the demonstrators chanted “No justice, no peace!,” “Let our children go!” and “No cages, no walls!”

Full story at The Southern Cross.