"The Dignity of an Illegal Immigrant Does Not Diminish” With Lack of Documents

Mexican Bishop Renato Ascencio León Laments Recent Deaths in Texas

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CIUDAD JUÁREZ, MAY 20, 2003 (ZENIT.org).- The death of 18 illegal immigrants in Texas moved Bishop Renato Ascencio León to call for the respect of those immigrants seeking work, and to denounce those who transact with the hope of their illegal brethren.

«I go in search of work and I meet with death!» is the title of the bishop’s message. It «seems to have been the destiny of the Mexicans and Central Americans who met their death on the 14,» he said.

It happened on the road to Victoria, in Texas, near the border with Matamoros, where a truck’s trailer was abandoned, in which some 70-100 men, women and children were traveling.

According to the information provided by the bishop, from January until April 7 of this year, at least 43 illegal Mexican immigrants have died attempting to enter the United States.

Over the past 7 years, 1,951 Mexicans have lost their lives, primarily in cities of Arizona, California, and Texas, where this latest tragedy occurred.

Last year alone, 371 died; in 2001, 391; in 2000, 491; in 1999, 356; in 1998, 170; and in 1997, 129.

Bishop León, who is president of the Mexican episcopate’s Commission on Human Mobility, said that responsibility for these tragedies cannot be attributed only to the governments of both countries, but also to «the members of both societies.»

The responsibility is also social because «we do not demand better conditions for our migrant brothers. We here in Mexico, if we are surviving, care not at all about what happens to them! Over there, in the United States, the very descendents of Latin Americans see them as a threat,» the bishop continued.

«When will we learn, and how many more migrants will have to die, before our conscience is stirred and we value human life and force our governments to implement migratory policies in keeping with our rank of children of God?» he asked.

«The dignity of an illegal immigrant does not diminish because he lacks certain documents. Whether or not they have them, our migrant brothers and sisters are worthy because they only seek an opportunity to work.»

«Our faith should impel us to conquer this daily challenge to transform egoism into generosity, fear into openness, rejection into solidarity, and individualism into fraternity and commitment, translated in concrete and tangible acts in favor of our migrant brothers and sisters,» Bishop Renato Ascencio León concluded.

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