Plan to Use Pepper Spray Against Immigrants Is Assailed

Church Leaders in Mexico Call U.S. Program a Violation of Rights

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MEXICO CITY, AUG. 18, 2004 ( Church leaders in Mexico condemned the plan by U.S. border authorities to use rubber bullets full of pepper spray to stop immigrants — men, women and children — from entering the United States.

Mexico’s Foreign Relations Ministry last week said the use of the pepper spray launchers was an alternative to firearms, as both governments worry about people’s lives being endangered in rock-throwing incidents between migrants and U.S. Border Patrol agents.

In its latest issue, the Mexico Archdiocese’s weekly Desde la Fe stressed that in no way should there be an endorsement of the use of violence against immigrants.

The weekly appealed to authorities in both countries to start work on a migratory reform that does not violate Mexicans’ human rights.

Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, archbishop primate of Mexico, said: «I believe that all states have the right to guard their frontiers, to order emigration. But all states — Mexico and the United States in this concrete case — have the strict obligation to protect human rights, not to violate the most important rights of persons, and not to sacrifice a person’s dignity to guard a border.»

Bishop Renato Ascencio León of Ciudad Juarez said that the use of the rubber bullets would violate human rights.

«The argument of the personnel of the Border Patrol is not valid which states that it is better to use rubber rather than lead bullets,» as with one human rights are violated and with the other life is harmed, the bishop said.

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