Radio Show

Sister Simone Campbell on Refugee Ban and Social Justice


Father Dave interviews Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, executive director of the NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, about President Trump’s latest batch of executive orders. Known for spearheading the Nuns on the Bus campaign, Sister Simone has extensive experience in public policy and advocacy for systemic change and lobbies on “Mend the Gap” issues like economic equality, immigration reform, and health care.

On the subject of the president’s divisive executive order on immigration and refugees, Sister Simone and Father Dave point out how important it is to clarify the distinction between refugee policy and policy designed to curb undocumented immigrants. The term refugee itself is not simply used to describe anyone leaving one country and trying to enter another. A refugee is “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence and has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.”

Any refugee attempting to enter the United States — all of whom are now prevented by the president’s executive order for 120 days — has already gone through an extensive vetting process that lasts on average 18 to 30 months. In fact, even the “temporary” 120-day time frame is significant. Once the aforementioned vetting process is complete, a refugee is issued a travel “voucher” to enter our country, which is good for 90 days. If travel is not completed in that time, the refugee and their family must begin all over and perhaps wait another two years before being granted refugee status. Therefore, those who dismiss the current executive order as “only temporary” are failing to see the drastic implications of the 120-day ban.

RELATED: Catholic Bishops Respond to Executive Order on Immigration

While many Americans are fearful of refugees as potential terrorists, Sister Simone points out that this fear may be baseless. According to a 2016 study by the Cato Institute, the chance of an American being murdered in a terrorist attack caused by a refugee is 1 in 3.64 billion per year while the chance of being murdered in an attack committed by an illegal immigrant is an astronomical 1 in 10.9 billion per year. Sister Simone surmises that the executive order is, in fact, meant to play on people’s fears as opposed to actually promoting security.

“This isn’t really about terrorism, it’s about breeding fear in our society,” Sister Simone said. “And I can understand how people who don’t know the details of this could be afraid. But quite frankly, this is where the scriptures become so important. Because one of the things that Jesus said most often was, ‘Fear not, fear not.’ Our security is not in weapons, not in walls, not in isolation. Our security is in community. In connecting with each other. That’s what Jesus taught — to love one another as Christ loved us. Christ gave his life for us, so the least we can do is make room for people who are fleeing in fear.”

Sister Simone also shares her thoughts on the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), colloquially known as Obamacare, and her experience participating in the Women’s March on Washington. Sister Simone was an early advocate for the ACA and was present when it was signed into law by President Obama in 2010. Sister Simone echoes the concerns expressed by many Catholic bishops in recent weeks about the consequences of repealing the law without a replacement already in place.

“That’s part of a pro-life stance — that health care is a right,” Sister Simone said. “It’s not a luxury to those who are rich. It should be available to all of us. And we are the only developed nation on earth that has not figured out how to get health care to all our people. So, we’ve got work to do.”

Sister Simone’s memoir is called “A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community.”

(Original Air 01-30-17)

Photo Caption: Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK Catholic Social Justice Lobby, appears with the Nuns on the Bus campaign in Washington. The effort brings Catholic sisters to face-to-face meetings with people across the country to better understand their concerns and needs. (CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)