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Border bishop: ‘Broken system’

July 27, 2017
Rhina Guidos
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON – The bishop of the Diocese of El Paso, Texas, issued a pastoral letter calling for a stop to militarization along the border with Mexico and showing compassion for migrants. Bishop Mark J. Seitz followed with a passionate plea for understanding of the danger that prompts migrants to flee home.

Bishop Seitz, in a video conference hosted by the Hope Border Institute in El Paso after the July 18 release of his letter on migration titled “Sorrow and Mourning Flee Away,” spoke of a parishioner in his diocese in his 30s, a husband and father of two, who had been a successful businessman in his native Mexico until narcotraffickers began extorting money from him.

“It came to the point where he could no longer sustain the payments they were demanding,” the bishop explained. “One day, when he was gathered with friends in a park, some people drove up, threw him in the back of an SUV, used a machete to cut off his legs. He survived that attack and as soon as he was able to, he left with his family and came to El Paso.”

For years, he’s been in the process of seeking asylum after what happened to him, but it has not been granted, he continued.

“What is wrong with a system that would send a man back who has lost both of his legs to the very place where they did that to him? It’s clearly a broken system,” the bishop said.

The current system is one that “forces people to their deaths,” Bishop Seitz said, and the Catholic community needs to respond, particularly by accompanying people in their struggles.

Though the bishop’s pastoral letter was addressed to his diocese, it also speaks “in a special way to our migrant community who are living in a great deal of fear right now, who need to hear that they are not alone, that God is with them, that he can change those dry sands into springs and pools of water and that God can also invite us into union with each other,” he said.

Bishop Seitz said that at the beginning of September, bishops from dioceses surrounding both sides of the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border will meet in Piedras Negras, Mexico. “Obviously, it’s a very significant time for us to be talking about life on the border and the impact of various enforcement actions,” he said.

Sara Benitez, Latino program director for the Washington-based Faith in Public Life, said she hoped the bishop’s leadership on the topic would “inspire our church to take even bolder steps to defend the dignity of all immigrants and send a clear message to those in power.”

She reinforced Bishop Seitz’s call to immediately end deportations and detentions until comprehensive immigration reform can come to fruition. “It’s time to end deportations that are tearing families apart and devastating communities on the border and across the country,” Benitez told Catholic News Service.

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