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USCCB Migration Chairman, CRS President, release statement on government asylum policy

The Chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration and the President of Catholic Relief Services have issued a statement supporting a call to end a US policy that requires asylum seekers to go to Mexico while waiting to appear before a US judge.

By Francesca Merlo

In their statement, Bishop Joe Vasquez and Sean Callahan say that, “Consistent with the Texas-Mexico Border Bishops March 4th Statement we oppose U.S. policy requiring asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while waiting to access protection in the United States”.

The March 4th statement, by Bishops whose dioceses lie on the border between Texas and Mexico border, expresses their “total disagreement with the policy of the government of the United States to send to Mexico migrants who are waiting for their turn to appear before a US judge who will decide whether or not they receive asylum”.

Seeing Christ in those who suffer

The Bishops urge everyone to see “Christ in need” in these “suffering asylum seekers”, who are “driven by situations of extreme violence and poverty”. They invite everyone to give them the support they require, without assuming that they are criminals – as they are so often perceived.

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The Bishops of the United States call on the current administration to reverse this policy, which they say needlessly increases the suffering of the most vulnerable and violates international protocols.

Looking beyond our borders

“We must look beyond our borders”, the statement reads, as families are escaping extreme violence and poverty at home and are fleeing for their lives.

They ask the US government to find a way to address root causes of migration, and especially, to “promote human dignity and sustainable livelihoods”. With the Texas-Mexico border bishops, they urge a renewed commitment to Pope Francis’ call “to welcome, protect, promote, and integrate our immigrant brothers and sisters in Christ”.

240 "returns"

Since January 2019, the United States has returned 240 people to Mexico, as they await their court proceedings. The majority of these are migrants who crossed the US Mexico border legally. Mexican officials claim that the number of migrants who have been sent back to Mexico after crossing the border illegally is “very low”.

This policy is the latest effort imposed by the Trump administration to try to curb a sharp increase in the number of Central American families that are arriving at the border and claiming asylum. Administration officials say that even though many of the migrants seeking asylum are eventually refused, applicants end up living in the United States for years while they wait for their cases to be processed.

However, immigration advocates state that sending vulnerable migrants back to dangerous border cities is not only illegal, but also that it violates U.S. obligations under international treaties.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have sued in federal court to halt the program.

14 March 2019, 19:09