Bannon on Catholic Church’s DACA support: ‘They need illegal aliens to fill the churches’

(CNN) — Former White House chief strategist Steven Bannon said the Catholic Church’s support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, is economically driven and owes to the church’s struggle to fill pews.

“To come to grips with the problems in the church, they need illegal aliens. They need illegal aliens to fill the churches. It’s obvious on the face of it,” Bannon said in a “60 Minutes” interview that was previewed on “CBS This Morning” Thursday. “They have an economic interest in unlimited immigration.”

Bannon, a Catholic, downplayed the church’s opinions on DACA, arguing that they carry little weight and saying the church was “just another guy with an opinion.”

“As much as I respect Cardinal (Timothy) Dolan and the bishops on doctrine, this is not doctrine. This 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,” Bannon said.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops called the repeal of DACA “unacceptable” in a statement Tuesday.

DACA debate could send a political shockwave through 2018 and beyond

“The cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible. 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,” the statement read.

President Donald Trump formally announced on Tuesday the end of DACA — a program first enacted under President Barack Obama that had protected nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation.

Trump’s decision to end the program was met with criticism on both sides of the aisle.

Bannon said in the interview that he did not agree with Trump’s decision on DACA but said he “understood how he struggled with it.” Bannon added that he’s aware that conservatives and people on the far-right are not happy with Trump’s decision.

The clip aired on Thursday did not provide further context about why Bannon disagreed with DACA.

Trump fired Bannon mid-August amid a reshuffling of power within his administration. He has since returned to his role as executive chairman at Breitbart News.