The United States has a moral obligation to protect unaccompanied children and families from persecution in Central America, said Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, in testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, last week.
Bishop Seitz is an advisor to the USCCB Committee on Migration and a member of the board of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC).
The humanitarian outflow, driven by organized crime in the northern triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, continues, with nearly 40,000 unaccompanied children and an equal number of mothers with children having arrived in the United States in Fiscal Year 2015.
“If we do not respond justly and humanely to this challenge in our own backyard, then we will relinquish our moral leadership and moral influence globally,” Bishop Seitz said during the Oct. 21 testimony.
Bishop Seitz pointed to the human consequences of U.S. policies which are designed to deter migration from the region, including U.S. support for Mexican interdiction efforts which are intercepting children and families in Mexico and sending them back to danger, in violation of international law.
Bishop Seitz recommended an end to these interdictions and the introduction of a regional system which would screen children and families for asylum in Mexico and other parts of the region. He also called for Congress to approve and increase a $1 billion aid package proposed by the Administration.
“If we export enforcement,” Bishop Seitz said, “we also must export protection.”
Bishop Seitz recalled the words of Pope Francis before Congress in September, when he invoked the golden rule in guiding our nation’s actions toward those seeking safety in our land.
Quoting the Holy Father, Bishop Seitz repeated to the committee, “‘The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.'”
“Mr. Chairman, I pray that time, and history, will conclude that we honored this rule in meeting this humanitarian challenge,” Bishop Seitz concluded.
Bishop Seitz’ testimony can be found at http://www.usccb.org//about/migration-policy/congressional-testimony/upload/seitz-ongoing-migration.pdf