By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
July 10 is the last day for US Border authorities to reunite children under 5 who were separated from their parents on the US Mexico border. On Sunday, the government revealed that only 54 of the 84 children still in detention will actually be reunited with their parents on Tuesday. Nine of the children’s parents have already been deported, nine others were released from detention and cannot be located in time, and 12 others are still in criminal custody.
What has recently become a headline the world over, is, unfortunately, all too familiar to those living on the US border with Mexico. Bishop Daniel Flores, of the border diocese of Brownsville in Texas, spoke with Vatican News about how he provides care for migrants who have just crossed the border and guidance to the wider community.
A smile, a welcome…and more
Bishop Flores explained that his primary role is to make sure that services are provided to immigrant families in the area as “efficiently and as humanely as possible, because that is the work of the Church—to respect the dignity of the people who are coming to us”.
Ask him what is the first thing to offer to these migrants, and he’ll tell you: “Give them a smile, and a welcome that perhaps they haven’t seen anywhere since they left their country”.
He relies on Catholic Charities, under the direction of Sr Norma Pimentel, to provide direct services, such as food and orientation, to families who have been released from detention and are headed to be reunited with family members in other parts of the country.
Why the Church is concerned
His second priority is teaching “very simply about why the Church is concerned about protecting the dignity of the immigrant and encouraging people to volunteer and to maintain that compassionate stance before these very excruciatingly painful experiences”. He hopes that the Church will be a catalyst, attracting others to provide “concrete assistance to families who really are in distress”.
It’s about mothers, and children, and dads…
Bishop Flores said that the US Bishops have “an enormous responsibility” to form public opinion regarding why the law, which is not an end in itself, “must serve the human person”. This is why the Bishops, he said, repeatedly call for a “comprehensive reform of the entire immigration system … because it is not adequate to the human situation”. He acknowledges that such reform is an ongoing process—one in which “what gets lost in the whole discussion on a national level is the face of the persons affected…. We’re talking about mothers, and children, and dads, and young people who left their country because they fear for their lives”.