National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  October 3, 2003

Texas bishops call for resumption of migrant policy talks with Mexico


Seven Texas bishops from dioceses that border Mexico have called on U.S. President George Bush to restart negotiations on migration immediately because of their concern about the “grave moral issues” in U.S. policies toward migrants.

“Comprehensive reform of U.S. immigration law is necessary, in our view, to ensure that human rights, dignity and lives of migrants from Mexico and Central and South America are protected and upheld,” they said. “It is also needed to promote the long-term economic and security interests of the United States.”

Just days before the September 2001 terrorist attacks, Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox held talks on migration issues. The two governments seemed headed toward agreements for a guest worker program and a plan for legalizing many of the estimated 8 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

Since the terrorist attacks, those plans have been shelved. Also, immigrants -- both legal and illegal -- have come under considerably more scrutiny by law enforcement agencies.

In their letter to Bush, the bishops said, “We witness every day the human consequences of the migration phenomenon. Families are separated, communities are divided, and migrants seeking to support themselves and their families are abused and exploited. Most disturbingly, migrants continue to perish in remote regions of the American Southwest or in [their] attempt to enter the United States by other means of transportation.”

The letter was signed by: Archbishop Patrick F. Flores and Auxiliary Bishops Patrick J. Zurek and Thomas J. Flanagan of San Antonio; Bishop Raymundo J. Peña of Brownsville; Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer of San Angelo; Bishop Armando X. Ochoa of El Paso; and Bishop James A. Tamayo of Laredo. Their dioceses all touch the Mexican border.

According to a Sept. 17 news release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the letter outlined the bishops’ concerns about the inadequacy of current U.S. immigration policy; the failure of enforcement policies to protect basic human rights and safety of immigrants; and the lack of talks with Mexico since 2001.

The letter noted that the Catholic church does not condone illegal immigration, but that the church seeks “to uphold the human rights and dignity of all people, regardless of their immigration status.”

The current situation in which migrants are victimized while the United States benefits is “morally unacceptable,” it said.

“No longer can our country in good conscience reap the benefits of the toil of migrant workers without recognizing their important contributions,” it said.

National Catholic Reporter, October 3, 2003

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