BROWNSVILLE, November 27 - Immigration reform has to be fixed at the hemispheric level and the Catholic Church, because of its strong presence in Latin America, can help focus on that, says Bishop Daniel Flores of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville.
Flores spoke about the issue with reporters on Friday while unveiling a letter signed by 13 border bishops from northern Mexico, Texas and New Mexico who are concerned about the plight of families that have been separated due to flawed immigration policies. Flores said the letter was written to coincide with Thanksgiving.
“One of the things the bishops always want to talk about is the pressures of immigration are not just something that happen just here in the United States. There are economic and social dynamics deep in South America and Central America that are influencing the movement of peoples. One thing the Catholic Church can do is take a more global perspective on things because we know of situations in other parts of the world,” Flores told reporters, at a gathering at the Pastoral Center in Brownsville.
“Really, in the end, we need a more global solution because the first principle we enunciate in this document and other documents is that people should not have to leave. It is a tragedy if there are situations in their home country where they feel they have to in order to survive. That is a root problem that needs to be addressed in the home country but also as part of a hemispheric solution. That will take cooperation from various governments, how you help the situation in Central America or South America that are putting pressure on families who are often caught in a movement, to quote a bishop I heard recently, of tectonic plates that are kind of pushing people.”
Flores said this perspective ties in with recent speeches by Pope Francis.
“One thing Pope Francis has been speaking about a lot is that there are certain aspects of the market economy, for example, that treat people inhumanely and put pressures on families that should not be there. Something needs to happen to equalize the situation a bit, to where the market economy becomes more humane, more sensitive. Not that you get rid of the market economy but that there has to be something more to how an economy works than simply the pursuit of the maximum profit, because, what is happening is the complete desolation of towns and villages in Central America and Central Mexico,” Flores said.
“Somebody has to look at this from a global perspective and it cannot be just, this is how it affects our country and we have to take care of our own. If there is anything solidarity is about, it we have to look at things from the bigger perspective. It cannot just be one country.”
Flores said border bishops hear stories from immigrants that are sometimes harrowing.
“You do hear horrific stories sometimes from young people sometimes who have crossed from Guatemala through the interior of Mexico and find themselves here. What they experienced crossing through Mexico, it can be quite terrifying because there is very little protection. The bishops of Mexico are aware of this. It is something we have talked about. It is something the bishops of Mexico are particularly attentive too,” Flores said.
“Even as here in the United States we try to attend to the situation as we are facing it, there is a pastoral tragedy in Mexico that often times involves families from Latin America, Central America, South America, who have very little legal protection as they pass through Mexico. A lot of children are affected.”
Flores said he has visited a center in El Paso where immigrant children are housed prior to deportation. “It is a credit to the United States government that they don’t just simply deport a child, they have to find a contact on the other side,” Flores said. “There are horrific things, the experiences. It is very moving because you hear about the fact that there is a great sense of resiliency there and hopefulness, not necessarily any bitterness, but it is life threatening as you cross.”
Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two part series based on Bishop Flores’ conversations with reporters about immigration and border security. Click here for part two.