San Antonio Archbishop: Migrant tragedy cannot be allowed to "pass by"
By Francesca Merlo
The survivors of Monday’s migrant tragedy in San Antonio, Texas, are all minors, and other than one – the only one who is able to speak – they are all as yet nameless.
“This is the story of the immigrants, migrants and refugees on the southern border with the US” and one of the most terrible aspects of this massacre, according to Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio Texas. An abandoned lorry containing 46 dead migrants was found on the side of the road in the city. The number of those who have died has now risen to 51.
Being loved by a community
When we consider the massacre of Uvalde, Texas, not long ago, in which 19 children and two teachers were shot dead in an elementary school, the victims and their families had names. They were part of a community that loved them and they were never alone, says Archbishop Garcia-Siller. These migrants, representing a small percentage of the nameless people risking their lives in hope of a better one, are alone and nameless.
Speaking to Vatican News, Archbishop Garcia-Siller recounted his visit to meet the survivors of the San Antonio tragedy in various children’s hospitals around the State.
“Only one person is doing noticeably better,” said the Archbishop. Her name is Sebastiana and she is sixteen years old. Another, who opened her eyes from her unconsciousness just as the Archbishop was leaving, smiled through her tubes and managed to nod when the Archbishop, after listing various Southern and Central American countries, mentioned Guatemala. She recognised and nodded at the sound of her home country. “It is very painful,” says the Archbishop.
Archbishop Garcia-Siller lauded the hospital workers, noting how well each patient was being looked after. Each person is accompanied by members of law enforcement, he recounted, “because there is a federal investigation underway.”
Three people have been taken into custody following the discovery of the trailer, though authorities still do not know whether they were definitely connected to the incident.
Pope Francis’ call for a change of heart
Archbishop Garcia-Siller went on to speak of the message of solidarity received from the Holy Father, who calls for “a change of heart”. That is what we need, says the Archbishop.
First, we need to recognise what happened, says the Archbishop, “we cannot just allow situations like this one, or the one in Ubalde, to just pass by.” The real change, however, comes on the level of the legislators, continues Archbishop Garcia-Siller. He recounts his move to the US, “many years ago”, noting that since then “nothing has been done to address the immigration reform” and because of this, the suffering is in cycles and is “beyond understanding”. We will be sending letters to the lawmakers, assured Archbishop Garcia-Siller, as they are the only ones who can change some of these laws.
We, along with all people of faith, continue to pray, to honour the dead and be close to the living, says the Archbishop.
He then told the story of his encounter with a young girl, around three or four, during his visit to the hospitals. She had no connection to the tragedy that occurred on Monday night, but upon seeing the Archbishop took his hand and asked that he please pray for her migrant "sister", now in heaven.
“I will pray and ask her to talk to you, so that you can remember her voice and be near her,” responded the Archbishop.
Be close to the living, honour the dead
Archbishop Garcia-Siller explains that he decided to recount this painful story because “if in some way we can express to people from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and all the other countries, that we are with their beloved ones, living or dead, and that we pray for the living to be restored into fullness and a better quality of life, whilst honouring the dead”, we are close to them.
“We trust in God,” concluded the Archbishop, and we must grasp any sign of hope, because “we know that God, in doing His work, will multiply it."