Not Licit to Treat Illegal Migrants Like Criminals, Mexican Bishops Insist

In Episcopal Message

Share this Entry

LAGO DE GUADALUPE, Mexico, DEC. 6, 2002 ( Mexico’s bishops defended the inalienable right of people to emigrate when they cannot find the conditions for a dignified life in their own lands.

At their recent plenary assembly, the bishops published a “Message to the People of Mexico and to Migrant Brothers and Residents Abroad.” In it, the episcopate stressed that “migrations are co-natural to the human being.”

The document, published Nov. 15 and signed by the president and secretary-general of the bishops’ conference, was developed in cooperation with visiting bishops from the Guatemalan and U.S. episcopal conferences. The message is a prelude to a related document soon to be published by the Mexican and U.S. bishops’ conferences.

Mexico’s socioeconomic conditions contribute mightily to the migration issue; far from fostering solidarity with the homeland, “they nourish in many Mexicans the mirage of the American dream,” the bishops explained.

Since migration often divides families for long periods of time, the bishops observed, “we believe it is urgent that the legal transit of casual laborers be facilitated.”

The bishops acknowledged the right of states to protect their borders and the efforts of U.S. authorities to accept hundreds of thousands of Mexicans every year. But they pointed out that if laws and policies “become rigid and inflexible, they block legal migration and cause illegal [migration], giving sway to unscrupulous mafias.”

According to the document, the dignity and fundamental rights of illegal migrants are ignored when good-faith entrance into a territory is treated as an offense. Illegal migrants “possibly infringe a norm, but are not criminals and it is not licit to treat them as such,” the bishops stressed.

“After the painful events of Sept. 11, 2001, it is understandable that the authorities and people of the United States of America are greatly concerned about national security,” the document acknowledged.

However, this is no reason “to label every migrant as a presumed terrorist, and much less so for some citizens to dedicate themselves, on their own initiative and with this pretext, to persecuting and hunting the same, as if they were simply animals,” the bishops stressed.

Yet, it is not only Mexicans who suffer injustice abroad, nor is the problem only in the United States. “We cannot but be ashamed of the inhuman treatment in Mexico of migrants from Central and South America, and even of fellow countrymen who move to other areas of the country,” the bishops stated.

Nor is justice for emigrants always to be found back home. Mexicans working in the United States send between $8 billion to $10 billion a year to Mexico.

“They constitute, for the nation, the third source of income in foreign exchange,” the bishops explained. Yet, “to date the authorities have not established suitable and just mechanisms for the whole of this money to reach those for whom it is intended.”

In their message, the Mexican bishops appealed to parish priests and to the faithful to open their doors and hearts to migrants, without distinctions. “Every migrant should find, in the parishes he contacts, some of the warmth of the home he or she was obliged to leave behind,” they said.

Moreover, the bishops exhorted Mexican migrants to obey the civil law and to work for the well-being of the country that accepts them, to remain firm in their faith and to witness to it, and to be faithful to their family, helpful to their fellow men, and prudent in administering the goods they obtain with so much effort.

Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation