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Issue Date:  November 21, 2003

U.S., Mexican bishops emphasize solidarity with migrants

Catholic clergy and workers in church-sponsored migration advocacy programs convened Nov. 3 at a Franciscan retreat center in Las Cruces, N.M., to strategize on ways to better publicize a U.S.-Mexican pastoral letter calling for immigration reform. Strangers No Longer: Together on a Journey of Hope, published in November 2002, is the first joint pastoral in the history of the two Catholic conferences and was written in response to the migration crisis affecting the United States and Mexico. Both countries receive a high number of immigrants.

“We stand in solidarity with you, our migrant brothers and sisters, and we will continue to advocate on your behalf for just and fair migration policies,” the bishops wrote.

The pastoral identified the root cause of today’s “migration phenomenon” as economic inequality. The best way to reduce immigration, the bishops said, is to “develop the economies of sending nations.” Noting the increasing interdependence between the United States and Mexico, they called for creating more “legal avenues for migration” and specifically recommended increasing the number of American visas available to families who already have one member legally residing in the United States.

“While the majority of Mexican migrants enter the United States to find work, many cross the border to join family members,” the bishops wrote. They said the current cap on the number of visas granted forced many Mexican families to choose between reuniting by immigrating illegally or remaining separated indefinitely.

Additionally, the pastoral called for the legalization of the 5 million undocumented Mexicans already living in the United States and proposed reforming the employment-based immigration program to include permanent and temporary visas for Mexican laborers coming into the United States to work.

Approximately 50 people, including four U.S. bishops and Catholic immigration attorneys, attended the Border Conference, held at Holy Cross Retreat Center.

-- Claire Schaeffer-Duffy

National Catholic Reporter, November 21, 2003

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