Along the U.S.-Mexico border, Catholic bishops of both countries stressed the right of people to migrate and the need for the Church to welcome them.
“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,” the bishops said in a joint statement.
“We reiterate our commitment to care for pilgrims, strangers, exiles, and migrants affirming that all persons have a right to live in conditions worthy of human life. If these are not given they have a right to migrate.”
Regarding the right to migrate, they cited Pope Pius XII, whose 1952 apostolic constitution “Exsul Familia Nazarethana” addressed issues of migration and refugees after the Second World War.
The bishops pledged to monitor the suffering of migrants on both sides of the border and voiced support for Catholic agencies and individuals that offer spiritual, legal and material assistance to migrants.
“In the Church there are no strangers, migrant families should feel at home in every church as their homeland,” the bishops said, citing St. John Paul II.
The biannual meetings of the bishops from the border dioceses of Texas and northern Mexico began in 1986 to help show the communion of the universal Church. The meetings have always kept a focus on the lives and pastoral needs of migrants.
The joint message that came from the latest meeting was titled “The cry of Christ and voice of the migrant moves us.” It was published in English and Spanish.
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph, as immigrants and refugees sought for a place to live and work hoping for a compassionate human response,” the bishops said. “Today this history repeats itself.”
The bishops recounted visiting detention centers and respite centers for mothers and their adolescent and minor children. The condition of these places have been described as “intolerable and inhumane.”
They invoked Jesus’ words from Matthew 25, when he describes the Last Judgment welcoming those who will inherit the Kingdom of God “because I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was hungry and you gave me food.”
For the bishops, the U.S.-Mexico border region has a culture of its own.
“The border cities consider themselves to be sister cities and friends, because they share the same land, the same faith, the same traditions, the same culture in solidarity,” they said. “We bishops shall continue to follow the good example of Pope Francis; we shall seek to construct bridges rather than the walls of exclusion and exploitation.”
Pope Francis had blessed a cross at the border between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez during his February 2016 visit. This cross has become “a sign of unity between the countries,” the bishops said.
At the same time, the bishops described the “anguish” of those who have to live on the peripheries of society. Many migrants face extortion in the workplace, fear the constant threat of deportation and separation from family and friends.
“Over the years we have seen first-hand the suffering that is caused by a broken immigration system caused by political structures and economic conditions that result in threats, deportations, impunity and extreme violence,” they said.
The current presidential administration is making these realities evident, according to the bishops.
“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 and the development of our nations leaving them of hope,” they said.
The bishops described immigration as a global phenomenon driven by economic and social conditions. Poverty and insecurity makes families feel that migration is the only way to survive.
“The migrant has a right to be respected by international law and national law as he or she faces the violence, criminality and inhuman policies of governments as well as the world’s indifference.”
Migrants are often subject of punitive laws and mistreatment by authorities, both in their home country, the countries they pass through, and at their destination.
“It is essential that governments adopt policies that respect the human rights of migrants and undocumented residents,” they said.
The bishops invoked the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe and asked everyone to join them in prayer. (CNA)