WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 20, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The bishops of the United States weighed in regarding some of President Barack Obama's recent activities, welcoming the change he made to the nation's policy on Cuba and urging him to discuss the roots of the migration situation with Mexico's president.
In a letter from Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, New York, chairman of the prelates' Committee on International Justice and Peace, the bishops noted that their council has "for many years called for relaxing the sanctions against Cuba."
"These policies have largely failed to promote greater freedom, democracy and respect for human rights in Cuba," Bishop Hubbard wrote in the April 15 letter. "At the same time, our nation's counterproductive policies have unnecessarily alienated many in the hemisphere. Improving the lives of the Cuban people and encouraging human rights in Cuba will best be advanced through more rather than less contact between the Cuban and American people."
Obama granted Cuban Americans the right to freely travel to Cuba and send money to relatives there, and eased restrictions on U.S. telecommunications companies, all with the reported aim of furthering change in Cuba.
Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, Utah, chairman of the prelates' Committee on Migration, expressed the bishops' concern about the immigration situation of Mexico and the United States, prior to Obama's Thursday visit to President Felipe Calderón, where immigration was one of the main topics.
Bishop Wester noted in a news release that day that both nations benefit from the current reality, while those who are exploited are the immigrants themselves.
The United States, he said, "receives the benefit of [immigrants'] toil and taxes without having to worry about protecting their rights, either in the courtroom or the workplace. When convenient, they are made political scapegoats and attacked -- both rhetorically and through worksite raids."
But Mexico gains as well, Bishop Wester noted, pointing to the $20 billion in remittances per year, without the need to resolve the situation of those Mexicans at the lowest ends of the economic scale.
"What is left is a 'go north' policy which exposes Mexican citizens to the ravages of human smugglers, corrupt law enforcement officials, and potential death in the desert," lamented Bishop Wester. "The losers in this globalization game are the migrants themselves, who have no political power and are unable to defend themselves from inevitable abuse and exploitation, in a system which preys upon their desperation and expropriates their work ethic."