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July-August 2010
Vol. 35, No. 4


Migration: Bishops issue joint statement

In June, Catholic bishops from the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Central America and the Caribbean met for a consultation on migration. They issued a joint statement calling for protection, hospitality, service and justice to immigrants throughout the hemisphere. The statement called on the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration to affirm the country’s tradition as a nation of immigrants and “reform U.S. immigration law to allow migrants who work hard in the U.S. economy to enjoy the benefits of legal protection.” Go here to read the entire statement. Excerpts follow.

… We offer several reflections on the current situation regarding migration in this hemisphere, consistent with our long-held view that persons on the move should be protected from harm while in transit and welcomed with hospitality, service, and justice. This view is consistent with the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who calls upon all to “welcome the stranger” and who declared “for whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me.”...

It is a reality that in this hemisphere the human dignity of persons on the move continues to be violated by governmental and nongovernmental actors alike in source, transit, and receiving nations. Migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers are mistreated and exploited both by government officials and law enforcement officials, as well as smugglers and other criminal elements as they flee poverty, natural disaster, violence, or persecution. The explosion of human trafficking in this hemisphere is a scourge which continues to grow, victimizing men, women, and children.

… We also acknowledge and support the right of our governments to ensure the integrity of their borders and the common good of their citizenry. We strongly believe, however, that these goals can be achieved and the rule of law preserved without violating human rights. Governments can and must collaborate effectively to achieve regional development and stability.

With these perspectives in mind, we call attention to specific issues which should be addressed on a regional basis, with cooperation from all governments of this hemisphere:

Promotion of sustainable economic development: The factors which compel people to migrate in search of work are primarily, but not solely, economic. Families in poorer countries struggle to meet their most basic needs and living-wage jobs remain scarce. Root economic causes of migration must be addressed so that migrants can remain in their home countries and support their families. The impact of current and proposed trade agreements and agricultural policy in the region must be reviewed in terms of the displacement of small farmers and workers, and subsequent migration.

For example, the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), touted initially as the key to economic development in the region, has failed to reach those on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. International institutions, such as international lending institutions, have not adequately addressed the needs of the poor in the region. …

Economic drivers of violence: Economic insecurity and deprivation add to a number of social issues that together provide fertile breeding grounds for violence. The lack of economic opportunity as well as the lack of a sense of social meaning, especially among younger adults, fuels the resort to underground and illicit activities in many of the countries of the hemisphere. The increasing power of drug smuggling networks must be combated, both by law enforcement efforts but also by eradicating the market for these illicit substances, particularly in the United States.

Protection of migrants, refugees, and other vulnerable people in transit: Persons on the move in this hemisphere are subject to exploitation, abuse, and prolonged detention in all countries. Laws must be examined and reformed in each country to establish mechanisms to ensure safe passage, protection, and due process for migrants and their families, while ensuring that violent criminals are constrained.

Scourge of human trafficking: … Governments and nongovernmental actors must work together to address the economic and social factors that make people vulnerable to trafficking. They must root out trafficking networks, and provide rescue and services to victims. Special attention must be paid to children, who are the most vulnerable victims.

Assistance for Haiti: We call upon all governments of this hemisphere to provide special care to the people of Haiti as they attempt to rebuild their country after the January earthquake. We urge all nations to continue with their generosity and support, but also to apply and amend their migration laws to accommodate, to the greatest extent possible, Haitians and their families who can no longer remain in Haiti.

… As pastors, we have an obligation to defend the rights of all persons, particularly the most vulnerable members of the human community. We call upon all members of the Catholic community in our nations to stand in solidarity with persons on the move and to work for their just and humane treatment.

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