Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon has blasted the Catholic Church's condemnation of President Donald Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Bannon asserted that Catholic bishops wanted immigrants to remain in the U.S., even if they're in the country illegally, so they could continue attending their churches.
On Sept. 7, Bannon defended Trump's decision to discontinue DACA and fired back against New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan and his colleagues' support for the program.
"The Catholic Church has been terrible about this," Bannon told CBS News show "60 Minutes."
"Unable to really to come to grips with the problems in the Church, they need illegal aliens, they need illegal aliens to fill the churches," Bannon added. "It's obvious on the face of it."
On Sept. 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that Trump would rescind former President Barack Obama's administrative action that established DACA and phase out the program by March 2018, CNN reports.
Implemented in 2012, DACA gave young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally before they turned 16 years old the opportunity to obtain a work permit, apply for a driver's license and enroll in college. It also shielded them from deportation.
Nearly 800,000 young people have enrolled in the program. Trump's decision was met with fierce backlash, with critics noting that DACA recipients were brought to the U.S. as children and were unfamiliar with their countries of origin.
That same day, the U.S. Conference of Catholics Bishops released a statement blasting the decision, HuffPost reports.
"The cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible," the statement read. "It causes unnecessary fear for DACA youth and their families. These youth entered the U.S. as minors and often know America as their only home... Now, after months of anxiety and fear about their futures, these brave young people face deportation. This decision is unacceptable and does not reflect who were are as Americans."
Dolan stated during a radio interview that rescinding DACA was "certainly not Christian, and I would contend it's not American."
Bannon asserted that U.S. Catholic bishops had financial incentives to protect DACA.
"They have an economic interest," Bannon continued. "They have an economic interest in unlimited immigration, unlimited illegal immigration."
The former White House chief strategist, who is Catholic, added, "As much as I respect Cardinal Dolan and the bishops on doctrine... This is not about doctrine. This is about the sovereignty of a nation. And in that regard, they're just another guy with an opinion."
Bannon worked as the Trump campaign chairman during the end of the 2016 election. He served as the White House chief strategist until Aug. 18, when he resigned and returned to Breitbart, a controversial right-wing news outlet that he had previously spearheaded.
New White House chief of staff John Kelly had reportedly pushed for Bannon's removal, according to The New York Times.