Print Version    Email to Friend
United States’ border bishops say real emergency is caring for migrants

EL PASO (CNS): Bishops from Texas and Mexico called for solidarity with migrants as a Catholic response to the national emergency declared at the border of the United States (US) and Mexico by the president, Donald Trump, to free up funds for building a border wall.
The bishops also questioned if the emergency was as urgent as attending to the waves of migrants seeking asylum in the United States, but who are forced to wait months to make their claims.
“Our nation, the United States, has expressed that it is in a national emergency… We went to the border yesterday. The emergency is not here,” Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio, said on February 27 at the closing of a border bishops’ meeting on immigration issues.
“The emergency is what people are going through to try to come here to have peace, to have understanding, to have respect and have a genuine welcome. All the rhetoric that has been building up about how bad the ‘other’ people are has built up to this national emergency, which is a lie,” Archbishop Garcia-Siller added.
“The emergency is how we are going to take care of those who are discriminated and those who are disadvantaged,” he said.
The arrival of migrants at the US-Mexico border has caused conflict among Catholics, some of whom support the measures implemented, such as slowing the speed at which asylum claims are accepted at ports of entry, and endorse the idea of building a border wall.
Bishops from the borderlands used their February 25 to 27 meeting to consult with Catholics working on migration issues and the leaders of other faith communities about how to respond to the crush of migrants fleeing poverty and violence in Central America, but bumping up against an increasingly more complicated and fortified border.
“It is leaders like us and others,” Archbishop Garcia-Siller said, who need “to unmask the situation to be able to present the truth in the way we see it.”
Dioceses along the border are increasingly attending to migrants. The Diocese of El Paso has 60 employees working in its migrant ministries and participates in an interfaith initiative operating 13 to 15 temporary shelters for asylum-seekers.
That attention may shift to Mexico as the US government rolls out a plan known as Remain in Mexico, which requires asylum-seekers to stay—in Mexican border cities—while their claims are heard in US courts.
The plan is already operational in Tijuana, Mexico, and Catholic migrant advocates expect it to be put into effect in other Mexican border cities, many of which are insecure and unprepared to receive so many families in need of shelter and humanitarian assistance.
“To say ‘no’ to people coming for asylum just aggravates the situation in Mexico,” Archbishop Garcia-Siller said.
In El Paso’s sister city, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, the diocesan shelter has filled and asylum-seekers must put their name on a list and wait to make a claim at a US ports of entry in El Paso. Father Javier Calvillo Salazar, the shelter director, said that fewer than 50 names are called on a daily basis.
“The Return to Mexico policy, if it were implemented in our border community, it would be a disaster,” Dylan Corbett, director of the diocesan HOPE Border Institute in El Paso, said.
“Right now there are 1,500 to 2,000 migrants on the other side of the border waiting their turn for asylum to be granted,” he explained. “If that were implemented here (in El Paso), we would have refugee camps on the Mexican side of the border.”

More from this section