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Migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. are seen at a makeshift border camp along the International Bridge in Del Rio Migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. are seen at a makeshift border camp along the International Bridge in Del Rio 

Catholic leaders call on US to reassess treatment of migrants

Bishop Mario Dorsonville, the chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration; and Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA issue a statement calling on the US government to reassess the treatment of Haitian and other migrants on the border between Mexico and the United States.

By Vatican News staff reporter

Catholic leaders in the United States say some American migration policies “all too often deny the reality of forced migration, disregard the responsibilities enshrined in domestic and international law, and undermine the vulnerability of those against whom they are applied.”

Worsening conditions in camps

Bishop Mario Dorsonville, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration; and Catholic Charities President Sister Donna Markham, OP, make that observation in a statement issued in response to the situation along the U.S.-Mexico border, where almost 10,000 migrants, mainly Haitian, face worsening conditions in an impromptu camp near the Texas town of Del Rio.

“Conditions in Central and South America—including the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic—have forced migration northward to the United States,” explains a press release introducing the statement. “Recent videos and first-hand accounts from southern Mexico have depicted harrowing instances of mistreatment and abuse of migrants, particularly Haitians.”

It notes that in response, the US Department of Homeland Security has increased its presence in the area, and accelerated the deportation of migrants from the United States.

The press release complains of the government’s use of provisions of US law – including so-called “expedited removal,” as well provisions allowing authorities to deny entry to migrants potentially posing a health risk – to quickly expel migrants. These tactics, it says, are a means of avoiding due process for migrants.

Welcoming the newcomer

“As a Church at the service of all God’s people, we embrace Christ’s call to welcome the newcomer and accompany them wherever they may be,” Bishop Dorsonville and Sr Markham say in their statement. Recalling that the Catholic Church is currently observing National Migration week, they explain they are “especially mindful of that obligation and saddened to see such a disregard for human dignity.”

Bishop Dorsonville and Sister Markham call on the US government “to reassess its treatment of migrants in Del Rio and elsewhere along the U.S.-Mexico border, especially Haitians, who face life-threatening conditions if returned to Haiti and possible discrimination if expelled to third countries.”

In addition to services provided by Catholic institutions to help care for migrants, they say they are also praying “for these migrants and all those seeking safety, security, and the opportunity to flourish in accordance with their God-given dignity.”

Appeal to the international community

They conclude their statement by noting Pope Francis’ recent appeal to the international community “to take a shared interest in the plight of the Haitian people” and to join in efforts to assist them. The Church in the United States has also expressed its support and prayer for the Church and people of Haiti, they add, pointing especially to statements by USCCB President José Gomez and his appeal to US dioceses to consider taking up a special collection “to assist with immediate emergency needs and long-term rebuilding and recovery efforts in Haiti.”

23 September 2021, 12:54