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Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2021 / 08:45 am (CNA).- After President Joe Biden on his first day in office revoked a travel ban from certain Muslim-majority and African countries, leading U.S. bishops praised the move.

 

 “We welcome yesterday’s Proclamation, which will help ensure that those fleeing persecution and seeking refuge or seeking to reunify with family in the United States will not be turned away because of what country they are from or what religion they practice,” stated Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

 

Cardinal Dolan chairs the religious freedom committee of the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB), and Bishop Dorsonville chairs the conference migration committee.

 

On Wednesday, President Biden had issued a proclamation revoking President Trump’s executive order from 2017, along with several of Trump’s ensuing actions to restrict travel into the U.S. from several predominantly Muslim and African countries. Biden’s proclamation was among his first executive actions while in office.

 

Biden said that travel bans “are a stain on our national conscience and are inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all.”

 

The initial 2017 action by President Trump– was considered by some to be essentially a “Muslim ban,” a continuation of his promise on the campaign trail to shut down travel into the U.S. by Muslims, purportedly for security reasons.

 

At the time of the initial ban, the USCCB said it “targets Muslims for exclusion, which goes against our country’s core principle of neutrality when it comes to people of faith.” 

 

Since the original order, the administration later added other countries to the list that were not Muslim-majority nations, including African countries. The travel ban was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2018.

 

Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Dorsonville said that reversing the travel ban would help refugees and victims of violence.

 

“We look forward to working with this new Administration in accompanying immigrants and refugees and continuing the welcoming tradition, which has helped make the United States the diverse and prosperous nation it is today,” they stated.

 

Other Catholic groups praised President Biden’s proposed actions on immigration on his first day in office.

 

Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), tweeted on Wednesday of the “Muslim Ban” that “[i]t’s only fitting that this be among the first Trump policies to go.”

 

“The ‘Document on Human Fraternity’ from @Pontifex and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb calls on us ‘to unite and work together’ and ‘advance a culture of mutual respect in the awareness of the great divine grace that makes all human beings brothers and sisters,’” she tweeted.

 

Biden on Wednesday began a series of other executive actions on immigration, including the preservation the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and declaring a halt to border wall construction.

 

In addition, Biden’s transition team promised he would send an immigration bill to Congress that would, among other acts, offer a path to citizenship for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders.

 

That policy would protect “vulnerable people and families” from countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti from deportation, said Bill O’Keefe, executive vice president for mission, mobilization and advocacy at Catholic Relief Services (CRS).

 

“Based on our presence in Latin America and our Church partners there, we know these countries are not prepared to reintegrate their citizens and are overwhelmed from the consequences of natural disasters, insecurity, and COVID-19,” O’Keefe told CNA in a statement.