By Rhina Guidos
WASHINGTON (CNS) — In a joint statement, Catholic bishops whose dioceses are along the
U.S.-Mexico border spoke of the “pain, the fear, and the anguish” they’re seeing in immigrants and vowed to follow the example of the pope in building
“bridges, rather than the walls of exclusion and exploitation.”
The Feb. 14 statement was read at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle in Texas after a visit by the bishops to an immigration detention
center as well as to a humanitarian respite center at Sacred Heart Parish in
McAllen, Texas, in the Brownsville Diocese.
The statement came after two days of a gathering of bishops
whose dioceses are along the U.S.-Mexico border. The apostolic nuncio to the
United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, also attended. The meeting of about
20 bishops included Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville and Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio.
The biannual meetings began in 1986 “to address the life and
pastoral needs of our migrant brothers and sisters,” the statement said, adding
that “in this difficult
moment in our history, we hear the cry of our migrant brothers and sisters whose
voices reflect the voice of Christ himself.”
They spoke of the plight of the Holy Family as they sought
refuge and a compassionate human response, and said they saw the same in
immigrants they met. The suffering immigrants face is the result of “a broken
immigration system caused by political structures and economic conditions that
result in threats, deportations, impunity and extreme violence,” they said.
Migrants are the result of these conditions and also are victims of those who
seek to extort them in their work and under the threat of deportations that can
lead to their separation from family and friends.
“We can sense the pain of the separation of families, loss
of employment, persecutions, discrimination, racism and unnecessary
deportations that paralyze the development of persons in our societies,” they
said. “Immigration is a global phenomenon that arises from economic and social
conditions, and the poverty and insecurity that directly displaces entire
populations, causing families to feel that migration is the only way to
Migrants have the right to be respected “regardless of their
migration condition,” the bishops added, because every person has the right to
dignity, yet migrants are “subjected to punitive laws and often mistreated by
civil authorities both in their country of origin, the countries through which
they travel and the country of their destination. It is essential that
governments adopt policies that respect the human rights of migrants and
In the church, they said, “there are no strangers,” and
vowed to continue to support services to migrant families “including spiritual,
legal, and material assistance.”
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