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Steve Bannon claims U.S. Catholic Church has 'economic interest' in 'unlimited illegal immigration'

(Reuters/Joshua Roberts /File Photo)FILE PHOTO: White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2017.

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has criticized the U.S. Catholic Church over its stance on immigration, claiming that it only supports undocumented immigrants because it needs them to "fill the churches."

In an interview with Charlie Rose for CBS' "60 Minutes," Bannon defended President Donald Trump from criticisms for his decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Bannon, who is Catholic, said that Catholic bishops were "terrible" on immigration issues, and claimed that it has an "economic interest in unlimited immigration."

"The bishops have been terrible about this. By the way, you know why? Because [they're] unable to really come to grips with the problems in the Church, they need illegal aliens, they need illegal aliens to fill the churches. That's obvious on the face of it," Bannon said.

"That's why the Catholic bishops condemn him. ... They have an economic interest. They have an economic interest in unlimited immigration, unlimited illegal immigration," he added.

DACA, which was introduced by former President Barack Obama in 2012, enabled children who were brought illegally to the U.S. to receive a two-year period of deferred action from deportation and make them eligible to receive a work permit.

There are at least 800,000 Dreamers who benefited from the program, including immigrants from El Salvador (28,000), Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, and South Korea (7,300). Immigrants from the Philippines (5,000), and India (3,000) also benefited from the program.

Trump's decision drew criticisms from Catholic bishops, including from Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York.

In an interview with SiriuxXM, Dolan acknowledged that protecting the U.S. borders was "essential," but he argued that punishing the undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children was not something Christians should stand for.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration, argued that children should not be punished for the actions of their parents.

Bannon stated in the interview that he respects Dolan and the other bishops when it comes to doctrine, but he contended that the criticisms about Trump's decision to end DACA "is not doctrine at all."

"I totally respect the pope and I totally respect the Catholic bishops and cardinals 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," he said.

This was Bannon's first televised interview since he was fired as the White House chief strategist last month. After leaving the White House, Bannon returned to his position as the chairman of Breitbart News.

He told Rose in the interview that he and Trump are still in good terms, and he expressed his willingness to fight for the president's legislative agenda.

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