Diocese Opposes Conversion of McFarland Prisons to Immigration Detention

April 21, 2020

McFarland City Council
401 W. Kern Ave.
McFarland, CA 93250

Dear Friends in Christ,

Six weeks ago, I shared with the Diocese of Fresno in general and the beautiful community of McFarland in particular my joy in serving as their Bishop. I’ve enjoyed visiting most of the 87 parishes spread out over eight large counties, and have seen how blessed we are in so many different ways.

United in our Roman Catholic faith, we are still richly diverse in our cultures of origin, languages, customs, and traditions. Most of our parishes and missions celebrate Mass in English and Spanish, but many also conduct worship and education for our Portuguese, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, Hmong, and Iboo speakers. I mention this only to show that our Catholic Church all over the world, and here in the San Joaquin Valley offers them the support and solidarity that they deserve.

That is why once again I feel the need to remind you of the Diocese of Fresno’s strong opposition to the effort to convert a shuttered for-profit prison into an immigrant detention center.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno represents about one million Catholics and, hopefully, inspires others, including the inspiring folks who reside in the town of McFarland. I am immensely proud of the parishioners at St Elizabeth’s Catholic Church in McFarland who, in solidarity with many of their neighbors, have put their faith into practice and stood up for themselves, their community and this country by voicing their opposition to the proposal for a detention center in their town and in this valley. Once again, I am writing you to show that the Diocese of Fresno stands with them.

At the same time, I understand and appreciate the challenge cities like McFarland face in constantly seeking funding for sustaining government and services.

We know that the corporation is now appealing the decision to the McFarland City Council, and I understand and appreciate the pressures cities like McFarland face in procuring funding for its many essential services.

During this pandemic, and under restrictions which will not allow the McFarland community to adequately express their position on the vote scheduled for April 23rd, I strongly urge you to postpone the vote that evening. The entire world and the immigrant community in McFarland is reeling with the effects of COVID-19 and this is no time to rush through a decision which has already previously been rejected by a vast majority of the community of McFarland to be most affected.

I close with words from Pope Francis’ Easter Message to Popular Movements. His words to all those engaged in the” indispensable work of building change” challenge and inspire me, and I hope you as well:

“I hope that this time of danger will free us from operating on automatic pilot, shake our sleepy consciences and allow a humanist and ecological conversion that puts an end to the idolatry of money and places human life and dignity at the center. Our civilization- so competitive, so individualistic, with its frenetic rhythms of production and consumption, its extravagant luxuries, its disproportionate profits for just a few- needs to downshift, take stock and renew itself.”

May a postponement of the vote on April 23rd be a start in the process called for by Pope Francis. May we come to it with renewed energy and priorities after the pandemic has run its course.

In Christ,

Most Reverend Joseph V. Brennan, D.D.
Bishop, Diocese of Fresno