By Vatican News staff writer
At least 162 Catholic organizations from the United States, Mexico and Central America who work to protect migrants and improve life in the communities they are fleeing, are asking bishops to respond with “bold leadership” to “the cries of our brothers and sisters on the move.”
The groups made this appeal in a jointly signed letter addressed to several bishops in the region, including Archbishop José Gómez of the US, Cardinal Rogelio Cabrera López of Mexico; Archbishop Gonzalo de Villa Vásquez of Guatemala; Archbishop Ángel Garachana Pérez of Honduras; and Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas of El Salvador.
The organizations highlight the promise by the US administration to “address the root causes of migration, treat migrants humanely, and put immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for years, and in many cases decades, on a path to citizenship is a unique opportunity to relieve pain and suffering too long endured.”
“This summer and fall, we have the best opportunity in a generation to make progress on core Catholic migration priorities. We need your pastoral and moral leadership to meet this moment,” said the letter. “This moment requires a whole Church response that is regional, united, and robust.
Migration needs a humane, pastoral response
Drawing attention to areas of “great urgency and opportunity,” the letter asked for a humane response to increased migration caused by drought, climate change, political instability, poverty, and the pandemic’s economic consequences, driving people to migrate from Central America to the US.
The groups said that “these realities require a pastoral response to provide more safe refuge for people while they travel across the region and wait for resolution of their cases, and more support to resettle and integrate children and families on arrival in their new communities or when they return home.”
The letter went on to highlight that as a Church accompanying migrants every step of the way, “we are uniquely situated to fill the breach by planning for the increase in migrants”.
In this way, the Church can help authorities “develop a coherent, regional migration system, focused on protecting people, respecting the right to asylum, and offering safe and legal pathways for people to reunite with family, seek refuge, and work.”
Putting immigrants on a pathway to citizenship
Pointing at some political moves in the U.S Congress, the letter highlighted the importance of using “all the tools available to make tangible progress on the longstanding goal of providing a path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants.
“Many families in our parishes have lived in the U.S. for a generation without legal status, exposed to exploitation and insecurity,” the Catholic groups said.
Calling on the bishops in this regard, the letter underlined that their “leadership is critical to countering the demonization of immigrants, reducing polarization on this issue and making the moral and practical case for putting our parishioners, friends and neighbours on a pathway to full social inclusion.”
Tackling conditions that force people to migrate
The Catholic group then spoke on the need to address conditions that force people to migrate, pointing out that the U.S is preparing to spend $4 billion over the next five years to tackle the root causes of migration from Central America.
“Local Catholic organizations and partners are working to ensure that these resources reach the people and communities that need them the most, following local priorities and plans,” the letter said, urging that coordinated leadership from the Church in the United States, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala “would provide a much-needed boost to these efforts.”
This, the groups added, would help “channel resources into the local communities that people are fleeing to create economic opportunities, reduce violence and help small farmers adapt to climate change.”
Leadership from the Bishops
Further impressing the need for the Church’s response on the issue of migration, the Catholic groups said that the bishops’ leadership “is pivotal in reorienting U.S. policy toward Central America, away from low-wage employment and extractive industries, toward better jobs, sustainable development, and human rights protection.”
The organizations also added that they are ready to work to “lift up the pastoral solidarity and moral witness of the Catholic Church” at this critical moment in the region”
As St. Oscar Romero reminded us, the letter noted, “there are not two categories of people, some born to have everything and others who can’t enjoy the happiness that God has created for all.”
“It is Jesus Christ present in the movement of people across borders, especially those who flee in search of protection and a more dignified life,” the letter concluded, inviting all not to ignore this “divine invitation to greater solidarity and to grow in just and right relationship with one another.”