By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Bishops along the border of the United States and Mexico issued a joint statement on Thursday on the situation of migration at the frontier of the two countries.
In recent times, the US has faced increased numbers of migrants reaching its border with Mexico, presenting the governments of both countries with significant immigration challenges. Most of the migrants come from the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, who are experiencing a combination of push factors including poverty, inequality, violence and political instability. These challenges are further worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic and hurricanes last year.
The Bishops expressed their concern for the “dilemma that our migrant sisters and brothers face.” For most, they explained, “the decision to migrate is not motivated by an indifference toward their homeland or the pursuit of economic prosperity; it is a matter of life or death. The situation is all the more difficult for children.”
The statement issued on Thursday was signed by nine US Bishops and six others from Mexico, including Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, chairman of the US Bishops’ committee on migration and auxiliary Bishop of Washington.
Humanitarian solutions for migration
Acknowledging that nations have the right to maintain their borders, the Bishops highlighted that “challenges such as these require humanitarian solutions.”
They stressed that there is a shared responsibility by all nations to “preserve human life and provide for safe, orderly and humane immigration, including the right to asylum,” even though the maintenance of borders is vital to the sovereignty and self-determination of countries.
Appeal to governments
In light of the challenging situation, the Bishops appealed to governments, political leaders and civil society to work together to “welcome, protect, promote, and integrate migrants in accordance with their intrinsic dignity, as well as work with other countries in the region to eliminate conditions that compel their citizens to resort to dangerous and irregular migration, producing long-term solutions.”
Reiterating Pope Francis’ words, they noted that “unlike disagreement and conflict, persistent and courageous dialogue does not make headlines, but quietly helps the world to live much better than we imagine.” The Pope, on the eve of Easter Sunday last year, also remarked: "how beautiful it is to be Christians who offer consolation, who bear the burdens of others and who offer encouragement: messengers of life in a time of death.”
In managing the situation at the borders, therefore, the Bishops maintained that family unity must be a vital component of any response, and they appealed that special attention be given to vulnerable populations including children. At the same time, they encouraged policies supported by sound scientific rationales, conscious of the importance of public health and safety.
The Bishops also pledged their support to continue helping their respective governments’ efforts, as well as the ongoing work of Catholic organizations at the border and elsewhere, which are generously tended to by the clergy, laypeople and consecrated persons.
Concluding the joint statement, the US and Mexican Bishops prayed that in Holy Week in which we experience Christ’s Death and Resurrection, we may feel encouraged to keep going and to help migrants, “conscious that while the way ahead is long and arduous, it is not impossible if we journey together.”