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Catholic bishops, advocates meet to discuss response to Trump border policies

Tucson, Ariz., Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas and seven other bishops celebrate Mass on the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona on April 1, 2014. Photo by George Martell/The Pilot Media Group/Creative Commons

(RNS) — A group Catholic bishops from the U.S. and Mexico joined social justice groups for what organizers described as an “emergency” summit this week in El Paso, Texas, where leaders voiced opposition to President Trump’s immigration policies regarding asylum-seekers and the construction of a new border wall.

“Our nation, the United States, has expressed that we are in a ‘national emergency,’” said Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio at a news conference that ended the gathering on Wednesday (Feb. 27). “Well, we were at the border yesterday. The emergency is not here. The emergency is what people are going through to try and come here to have peace, to have understanding, to have respect and to have a genuine welcome.”

García-Siller then called the president’s rationale for a national emergency declaration “a lie.”

He later explained to Religion News Service that he believes the real border issue is what he described as the federal government’s mistreatment of Central American immigrants who travel to the U.S. seeking asylum.

“The crisis is what people go through, leaving their country, going through Mexico, arriving in the U.S., asking for political asylum and then not to be attended to — that is where the crisis comes in,” he said.

The “emergency” Feb. 25-27 meeting was organized around a standing biannual conference of “Tex-Mex” bishops and other clerics whose diocese are impacted by immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border.

It included a visit from the Rev. Robert Stark, Pope Francis’ representative from the Vatican’s Migrant and Refugees Section, who was invited by bishops and summit organizers to attend. García-Siller said Stark has attended Tex-Mex bishops gatherings in the past but that his brief remarks to the summit focused on highlighting the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment worldwide.

“He shared with us that this attitude is not just along the U.S. border with Mexico, but is pretty much prevailing in many places in the world,” he said. “This is very serious.”

Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso explained during Wednesday’s news conference that the bishops and the advocacy groups intersected as they responded to a bevy of border-related polices implemented by the Trump administration in recent months.

Marisa Limón Garza, deputy director of the Hope Border Institute, said the summit had been assembled over the past six weeks partly in response to the federal government’s new policy of forcing asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico while their claims are processed instead of in the United States — what advocates at the summit called the “the remain in Mexico plan.”

But there was no question that the meeting gained urgency with the national emergency declaration earlier this month. “We say no to the construction of the wall,” said Dylan Corbett, head of the Hope Border Institute, at the news conference. “We say no to the symbol of hate and division that it is. We say no to the turn-backs and the illegal stopping of asylum-seekers at our ports of entry.”

Other groups who sent representatives to the conference include the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Center for Migration Studies, Council on American-Islamic Relations and Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association.

Limón Garza said participants spent much of the week brainstorming new forms of advocacy and participated in a binational interfaith prayer service that featured worshippers on both sides of a border fence.

García-Siller said the Tex-Mex bishops, who included prelates from Saltillo and other Mexican cities, are preparing a statement to voice their concern about the “remain in Mexico” policy.

“We are opposed because that (policy) has a lot of consequences,” he said.

About the author

Jack Jenkins

Jack Jenkins is a national reporter for RNS based in Washington, covering U.S. Catholics and the intersection of religion and politics.

41 Comments

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  • If there was an actual emergency, Trump wouldn’t have to fabricate, distort, and lie to make his case.

  • The emergency is that all of Central America are failed states.
    Corrupt institutions run by corrupt people.

  • Hmmm. 

    They can gather together and work to promote “social justice,” but can’t summon the courage to hold their hierarchs accountable for how they handled “priestly pedophilia.” 

    Hmmm. 

    They’ve got the moral fibre, it seems, to resist the Groper-in-Chief’s towering rage against Mexicans, but haven’t the moral fibre to admit what they’ve done for decades and turn over all records of abuse to the appropriate authorities. 

    Hmmm. 

    What to make of that, I wonder? 

    Hmmm. 

    Hypocrites much? Oh wait. I forgot! Christians long ago raised hypocrisy to an artform, despite their supposed founder reportedly having ordered them never to be hypocritical, at any time or for any reason

    Hmmm. 

    As I said … what to make of that … ? Hmmmmm. I wonder … ? 

  • These Roman clerics should spend their time in prayer and reflection on why their church was a handmaiden for 500 year in creating and supporting such miserable societies developef by the conquistadors and their desendants in these Latin American nations that thousands want to flee. After they have reflected go south and fix the societies of Latin America. Stop trying to fill your American churches with illegal immigration as Anglo-Americans leave.

  • Our nation, the United States, has expressed that we are in a ‘national emergency,’” said Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio

    Not quite accurate, Gustavo. The nation said no such thing. The president said it; but as we all know, he lies a lot. This is just another illegal tantrum Trump’s throwing because he’s not getting his way.

  • Better things to worry about than refugees seeking asylum? I gather you’re not a Christian.

  • That is not an emergency, nor even remotely true.

    “Corrupt institutions run by corrupt people.”

    That is not a nice way to refer to the Presidency. But it is accurate.

  • If not, then why are 10 million people moving north to the United States looking for work or safe place to live? Even though you have never cited a single reason why these good people are seeking amnesty; there must be something tragically wrong for them wanting to pack up Their families and trek north.

  • They aren’t. There aren’t that many people coming into the country from all over the world.

    You just made up a number for hyperbole. Just like the 20 million illegal alien voters you made up once before

    Amnesty would be unnecessary if not for Republicans preferring appeals to bigoted derps over actual immigration reform.

    You have been given reasons people seek asylum. You just ignore them. Your dishonesty goes hand in hand with your willful ignorance on the subject. No only do you chose not to educate yourself, you make up crap instead to argue.

  • So they are coming to America because their countries are crap….
    But, now you’re saying that they’re not failed states.
    Which is it?

  • There aren’t 10 million, they are coming from literally everywhere. Immigration legal or otherwise has contributed to economic growth.

    You clearly don’t understand the definition of failed state. Given your posts, it is not worth the effort to educate you either on the subject. You could not care about basic facts. Just blather, rinse, repeat. 🙂

  • You Cleary can’t have it both ways.
    Either Central America is crap – otherwise people wouldn’t be migrating north for work or a better life; or it’s not – in which case the tens of thousands of illegals have no reason to climb walls to get in.
    Which is it?

  • You are asking me to debate fictional assertions you won’t even elaborate on. I am simply calling BS on it. You don’t want to educate yourself on the subject and feel the need to make up crap. So I don’t have to take your assertions seriously or accept them at face value.

    Central America is not the only place people immigrate to the US from.

    Several countries there have a thriving tourism industry, one is a off-shore banking center for the Western Hemisphere.

    ” in which case the tens of thousands of illegals have no reason to climb walls to get in.
    Which is it?”

    So now the number is reduced from 10 million to tens of thousands. Its amazing how the scale changes when you go from making stuff up to trying to sound plausible. Its not even tens of thousands a year. Most of our illegal aliens don’t cross that border either.

    How about this, when you finally get facts correct, I will address them.

    Of course when the discussion of rule of law comes up we should note how our president keeps trying to break our own immigration laws. He encourages abuses by ICE, tried asylum bans and holding children hostage to scare parents into waiving their due process rights. (Both shot down by the courts)

    So pardon me if I couldn’t possibly give a crap about your opinion of refugees and asylum seekers either. It is clear you have no interest in the facts or underlying laws in play. Neither does our incompetent white supremacist president.

  • I went downto 10k so your eyes don’t roll into the back of your head; since as usual you focus on the minutia to escape answering the question.
    You said Central America does not contain failed states. Yet, in numerous posts discussing illegal immigration, you have stated that the poor souls are running from the ravages of something-yet you never do say what they are.
    So, which is it?

  • You went with a figure you thought was more plausible. But still making it up. This is just trolling on your part.

    The “minutia” being basic facts. The questions being scripted talking points based on false assertions and phony premises. When given the facts, you simply ignore them and go on. You use terms like “failed state” with no concept of its meaning and just go for broad bigoted generalization.

    It is far easier to justify nonsense that way, like holding children for ransom, private detention scams, goon squad abuses, and pointless vanity construction projects.

  • If the Catholic church were functioning correctly in Latin America, so-called refugees would be getting support and asylum in this church in their own countries. Instead, the church, along with corrupt governments, abuses and impoverish’s people at the lower end of the socio-economic scale and creates refugees who have no choice except to flee. If the US Government closes it’s borders, who will help these people? Venezuela is an example as we speak. Thousands are without food or medicine, fleeing to neighboring countries, who are also poor, with corrupt governments. The RCC is the problem, not the solution.

  • Venezuela is a good example of what you are discussing with Nicolas Maduro, a corrupt dictator. Thousands are without food or medicine, fleeing to neighboring countries which are only slightly less corrupt, discovering that the only real hope for any future is in the USA. I know this because I’m here in Chile, and EVERYONE wants me to teach them English. Most of Latin America is 3rd world because of the corruption.

  • YOU, Spuddie, make up the crap. Parker12 is correct. Millions (who vote) are here (USA) illegally with millions more wanting to get in. POTUS Trump is also correct, illegal immigration needs to become LEGAL immigration.

  • When he was asked what the world’s most pressing problem was, the Pope said “Youth unemployment”.

    https://www{dot}lifesitenews.com/news/pope-francis-the-most-serious-evils-are-youth-unemployment-and-the-loneline

    Apparently these bishops, and you, did not get the message.

  • It does not appear to be illegal.

    He followed the letter of the law, which has been on the books for decades and used before.

    Disagreement does not make something disagreed with illegal.

  • I guess you didn’t notice the part about them being hypocritical in spite of their own Jesus’ clear, unambiguous order never to be hypocritical, didn’t you? 

    It’s not “trashing” anyone to point out the occasions when they refuse to obey the teachings of their own claimed religion. There’s an easy way for them to avoid having me make such observations, and that would be for them … well! … not to be hypocrites. (See how easy that was to figure out?) 

    Until then I plan to point out their failings … repeatedly, and without letup. Again, it’s not “trashing” anyone; it’s pointing out their own words and their own behavior. There’s nothing wrong with that. 

    BTW if anyone is “trashing” the R.C. Church here, or Christianity generally, it’s the Church’s management who profess to teach and administer a faith whose principles they won’t obey, themselves. They are the ones doing the “trashing” here, not me. 

  • “It’s not ‘trashing’ anyone to point out the occasions when they refuse to obey the teachings of their own claimed religion.”

    They’re not, and your comment makes it clear that as a non-believer and in fact opponent of Christianity you’re not in position to assess whether or not they’re following Christian teaching.

  • The Catholic Church has often allied itself with those in power. Sadly, the evangelical churches seem to do this also.

    There was a period, post-Vatican 2, when liberation theologians allied themselves with the poor and marginalized. John Paul 2 put an end to that.

  • This is all fine and good, but it would be far better if the bishops were to take it upon themselves to educate people at parish lev el about the reality of immigration law.

  • Re: “They’re not [hypocrites] …” 

    Of course they are! I already explained how. Did you miss it? 

    Oh wait. You didn’t! You read it, but then became all childishly enraged at my insolence. 

    So no, I don’t buy that you missed my explanation. You read it, and understand it, but just didn’t like it. Well, too bad so sad for you … that you don’t like something doesn’t magically make it not so. 

    Re: “… and your comment makes it clear that as a non-believer and in fact opponent of Christianity …” 

    First, thanks for the argumentum ad hominem! By relying on that fallacy, you just demonstrated you haven’t got an actual, cogent, logical response to what I said. 

    Second, I’m not an “opponent of Christianity.” I can’t be. It’s not possible! Christianity is a religion, and a rather amorphous one, at that. Yes, it’s a faith based on the teachings of Jesus aka the Christ, but given the numerous ways those can be interpreted and followed, it can mean many things. It makes no sense to be an “opponent” of all of that. It’s just too much. 

    Re: “… you’re not in position to assess whether or not they’re following Christian teaching.” 

    Actually I am! I know far more about Christianity than 99% of Christians. Most importantly, I used to be one: I was raised Catholic, and later converted to Protestant fundagelicalism. I was a devout believer, in fact: I was so devout that I taught myself κοινη Greek so I could read the New Testament in the original, the Old Testament as the Septuagint (which is how nearly all the earliest Christians knew it), and a majority of the Church Fathers in their original language. I also studied Aramaic and Coptic, and some other medieval languages. 

    I also have a degree in medieval history, which in many ways is also the history of Christianity. That history is far less flattering than most people are aware (conveniently for them, I suppose). 

    The truth is that I have vastly more expertise on the nature and history of Christianity even than most believers. This means I’m actually in a better position than Christians themselves are, “to assess whether or not they’re following Christian teaching.” 

    Yes, really. And there’s nothing you can say or do to change that reality. 

  • Hi, Spuddie…. I wrote to Parker12 and Sandi in EL above, and received the suggestion that you read my comments. If you are interested, the comments are above. Millions would come to the USA if they didn’t have to cross through Mexico…and sneak over the border at night.

  • You are no more informed or honest on the subject as they are.

    Millions aren’t crossing any of our borders at a time. You are pretending hyperbole is fact.

  • NOBODY said “millions are crossing our borders AT A TIME”…the truth is that millions of illegals live in the USA now, and have crossed over at night in small groups with their paid “coyotes”…others come legally with temporary visas and stay when those expire. All of this illegal immigration has been happening for the past 50 plus years.

  • Nice attempt to change the subject. Do you have some scriptural citation for why the poor and refugee should be ignored?

  • According to Pew (and others) there has been a reduction of Mexicans illegally crossing the border. There has been an increase (est. 25%) in attempts from the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Honduras, Guatamela). According to the failed immigrants reasons include higher violence and gang activity as well as seeking better economic opportunities. I feel sorry for the good people forced to live in those hellhole countries.

  • They are all saying it and meaning it. Its only because I am calling out that nonsense that it is being revised.

    It is meant as an appeal to panic. Worrying about a great “brown skinned horde”. It is why bigots use terms like “invaders” to refer to them. It is why the appeals involve treating these people as less than human. It is how you justify ripping children from parents and setting up concentration camps for them.

    Frankly this is a subject where conservatives actively avoid educating themselves on the subject before chiming in with their panicky bullcrap.

    The ebb and flow Illegal immigration is hardly an emergency. Along with traffic crossing into the country, we have illegal aliens who leave the country when the economy can’t support the numbers of menial laborers. (As seen in 2008-09).

    Most of the problems can be dealt with if we had manual labor visas, end labor visa abuse and have less draconian punishment for illegal status (without a criminal record). But Republicans currently find panicky bigots more reliable voters than successful immigrants. [Demolishing efforts made by the last Republican president]

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  • I agree. It’s sad.
    What to do about it?
    Bring all of Central America into the US? Can’t do.
    Use American “influences” to destroy the cartels? Been there; done that.

  • WHAT?!
    An EMERGENCY?!
    You’re shitting me – right?!
    Didn’t Jim accosta, cnn, Rachel Maddow and spuddie say things were cool on the border?
    Trump is right again!!

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