WASHINGTON, D.C., JUNE 11, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The bishops of the Western hemisphere are calling for the just and humane treatment of migrants, and urging the United States in particular to reform its immigration laws.
The bishops said this in a letter written at the conclusion of a meeting of the Regional Consultation on Migration, held June 2-4 in Washington, D.C. The meeting congregated Catholic bishops and staff of Catholic agencies working with migrants in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.
Also present were Archbishop Antonio Maria Vegliò, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, and representatives from the Latin American Council of Bishops’ Conferences.
In the letter, published today by the U.S. episcopal conference, the bishops reaffirmed their “commitment to vulnerable persons who migrate in search of protection or for a better life for themselves and their families.”
“It is a reality that in this hemisphere the human dignity of persons on the move continues to be violated by governmental and nongovernmental actors alike in source, transit, and receiving nations,” the letter continued. “Migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers are mistreated and exploited both by government officials and law enforcement officials, as well as smugglers and other criminal elements as they flee poverty, natural disaster, violence, or persecution.
“The explosion of human trafficking in this hemisphere is a scourge which continues to grow, victimizing men, women, and children.”
The bishops did acknowledge “and support the right of our governments to ensure the integrity of their borders and the common good of their citizenry,” but said that secure borders and the preservation of the rule of law could be achieved “without violating human rights.”
The bishops then called on the governments of all the nations of the hemisphere to work together to promote sustainable economic development, to protect migrants, refugees and other vulnerable peoples in transit, to fight the scourge of human trafficking, and to provide more assistance to Haiti.
The bishops also had a special message to the United States, which they recalled is “an immigrant nation.”
“The United States and the American people, including Catholics, have traditionally welcomed newcomers and helped to integrate them into the country,” the letter said. “We call upon the Congress of the United States and the Obama Administration to affirm this honored tradition and reform U.S. immigration law to allow migrants who work hard in the U.S. economy to enjoy the benefits of legal protection.
“This reform would preclude the need to impose criminal penalties on persons not lawfully admitted. It also would end deportations of family members and the breakup of families.”
“In all countries of the region,” the bishops said, “we continue to welcome and protect migrants and call upon our governments to make their immigration laws more humane.”
“As pastors, we have an obligation to defend the rights of all persons, particularly the most vulnerable members of the human community,” the bishops concluded. “We call upon all members of the Catholic community in our nations to stand in solidarity with persons on the move and to work for their just and humane treatment.”
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