Mexican, U.S. Bishops Join in Favor of Immigrants

Interview with Bishop Renato Ascencio León

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JUAREZ, Mexico, MAY 15, 2005 ( The bishops of the border areas between Mexico and the United States will meet next month to study the situation of immigrants passing between the two countries.

In this interview with the press, Bishop Renato Ascencio León of Juarez, Mexico, president of the Mexican bishops’ Commission on the Pastoral Program for Human Mobility, analyzed the important issues for the present and future action of the Catholic Church in the United States and Mexico regarding immigrants.

Q: How do you see the attitude of the U.S. bishops towards immigration?

Bishop León: I think the bishops of the United States are responding to our pastoral letter of almost two years ago. In it, we committed ourselves to work in favor of migrants. This initiative exerts pressure on the authorities so that they will be aware of the problem and carry out a much more humanitarian endeavor in favor of migrants. It must not be forgotten that migrants are not terrorists, or criminals; they are good people who are seeking better situations in life. We bishops committed ourselves with the pastoral letter, published in 2003, «Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope,» and we are seeing results.

Q: What do you think of the recent statements of the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said that the immigrants must be stopped at all costs, even, for example, by denying them water in the desert?

Bishop León: His statements are the worst possible. I must also point out that Schwarzenegger must not forget that he was also an immigrant (from Austria in 1968), and that he was given a hand as our countrymen expect a hand, and that an opportunity should be given to them as it was given to him.

Q: Do you have any specific policies in mind regarding immigration?

Bishop León: The next meeting we’ll hold, called by the bishops of the United States and Mexico who belong to this commission, will be in El Paso, Texas, next June 23, 24 and 25. There, in a very special way, we will have to analyze, first, the concrete situation we are going through, and then see what measures to adopt.

Q: What can Mexican bishops do to improve the conditions of migrants?

Bishop León: We must put pressure on our authorities. On one hand, we want to invite the foreign relations secretary, Luis Ernesto Derbez Bautista, to be our representative before the U.S. government; on the other hand, those who really can exert pressure legally are the people and bishops of the United States; therefore, we are going to ask them to intervene before their authorities as we are doing before ours here in Mexico.

Q: What is your opinion of how Mexico treats South and Central American migrants?

Bishop León: It is disgraceful. If we are asking for respect for Mexicans in another country, we must give it to our friends who come from other places, with one very great difference: Mexicans go to the United States to work permanently. Many Central Americans, however, use Mexico as a transit country to the United States.

Q: What is your opinion about increasing funds to continue building a metal wall between the two borders?

Bishop León: In the pastoral letter mentioned before, we pointed out the right that every citizen has — in his place of origin — to have the necessary means for subsistence, so that we don’t need to be immigrating. Therefore, I appeal to the Mexican authorities that they will find means to help millions of Mexicans live and work here, so that they don’t have to be humiliated, seeking the means to live elsewhere.

The second acknowledgement we make is that, if someone wishes to immigrate for some reason, especially for humanitarian reasons, he also has a right, a natural right, as John Paul II pointed out, and before him, John XXIII.

We also acknowledge the right that governments have to take care of their borders, but not by injuring human rights. Do people still want more walls? The man of our time should unite, not separate, and as long as we don’t serve as bridges, as John Paul II requested in his message for this last World Day of Social Communications, men will continue to be strangers.

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