First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

Bishops on Both Sides of Mexico Border Criticize Troop Deployment
By DAVID AGREN
CNS/LOREN ELLIOTT, REUTERS
A migrant in a canal near McAllen, Texas, surrenders to a border patrol agent April 5.

The Mexican bishops’ conference criticized President Donald Trump’s plan to deploy National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border and issued a strong defense of migrants, saying the Catholic Church could not stand by “in the face of suffering by our brother migrants as they seek better conditions by crossing the border to work and contribute to the common good.”

The April 7 letter, addressed to people in Mexico and the United States and the presidents of both countries, echoed sentiments of U.S. border bishops by saying the frontier between the two countries “is not a war zone,” but rather an area “called to be an example of social connection and joint responsibility.”

“The only future possible for our region is the future built with bridges of trust and shared development, not with walls of indignity and violence,” said the statement signed by the bishops of 16 northern Mexican dioceses and the conference’s six-member presidential council.

The Mexican bishops’ statement: “For the Dignity of Migrants,” followed Trump’s April 4 announcement to deploy troops to the border to thwart the entry of unauthorized migrants.

It followed a series of tweets from Trump criticizing Mexico for not stopping a caravan of Central American migrants from moving northward toward the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump’s tweets caused consternation in Mexico and promoted rare unity between the Mexican president, Pena Nieto, and his fiercest critics.

The day before the Mexican bishops’ statement, eight U.S. Catholic bishops from four border states issued a joint statement expressing their concern about troop placement at the border.

The statement was signed by Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio and four other Texas bishops including Bishops Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Michel J. Sis of San Angelo, James Tamayo of Laredo and Mark J. Sietz of El Paso. Other signers included Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger of Tucson, Ariz., Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego and Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M.

“This is not a war zone, but instead is comprised of many peaceful and law-abiding communities that are also generous in their response to human suffering,” the bishops said.

The April 6 statement said they recognize the right of nations to control and secure their borders and to respect the rule of law but it also pointed out that current U.S. law allows those who arrive in this country fleeing persecution to “due process as their claims are reviewed.”

Seeking refuge from persecution and violence in search of a peaceful life “is not a crime,” the bishops added.

—CNS

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