BROWNSVILLE, May 20 - Expanding on comments he made to Rio Grande Valley reporters at the San Juan Basilica on World Communications Day, Bishop Daniel E. Flores has sent a powerful letter to Secretary of State John Kerry about the corrosive impact of drug cartel activity.
In his letter, Flores urges the the U.S. government, in conjunction with its Mexican counterparts to “reevaluate” how it is addressing an “unfolding disaster” on the South Texas-Mexican border.
Flores said he joins Congressman Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, in urging “reconsideration” of U.S. deportation policy “so as to take into account the reality that the cartels are co-opting the very people fleeing their influence, often forcing them to cooperate with their plans, or face death for themselves or their families.”
Vela has also written to Kerry, letting him know of his support for Mexico’s new plans to bring security to Tamaulipas. Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, Mexico’s defense secretary, announced in Reynosa last week that four regional military commanders were being stationed in Tamaulipas.
Kerry is visiting Mexico City this week.
Here is Bishop Flores’s letter in full:
May 14, 2014
The Honorable John. F. Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Mr. Secretary:
I am the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, and I write to you out of great concern for the deteriorating conditions along the Texas-Mexican border. My duties as principal shepherd of the Church in the Rio Grande Valley involve travel, almost on a daily basis, up and down the southernmost border of the United States with Mexico, visiting the many churches and parish communities that grace this predominately Catholic area. We are a proud and culturally rich people, formed by a heritage of deep familial ties binding both sides of the border.
In my travels across the four counties of the diocese, I constantly hear first-hand accounts of men, women and children affected by the climate of violence currently afflicting northern Mexico. Stories of families who are here in my diocese because they have no surviving relatives in the towns right across the River from us are common. I hear from women with children who are here while their husbands continue to work in Mexico; their husbands want them to be safe from kidnappings and random shootings. I hear from kidnapping survivors, often missing fingers as a sign of their ordeal. I hear from aged grandmothers who ask for my prayers for grandsons in northern Mexico who have not been heard from in months. They are kidnapped and presumed dead, but grandmothers are the last to lose hope.
The poor from northern Mexico come now by whatever means they can, more for the sake of security than for economic reasons. The families with insufficient income procure the appropriate business visas and establish their businesses on the American side of the River. If the poor have no legal way to escape the violence, how can we fault them for risking life and limb to come to the United States? If the employers in Mexico are leaving for security reasons, what does that portend for the future of the Mexican economy in the North? And do we not want a strong Mexican economy in order to alleviate the economic pressures that have traditionally caused Mexican families to seek employment in the United States?
The violence is not confined to the Mexican side of the border. People here do not speak of it much, except maybe to their priest or bishop, but the fact is that the criminal elements that operate in Tamaulipas and elsewhere are not without resources and reach in my diocese, and in other border areas. I worry most about the young, who are easy prey to the offer of money and quick successes if they join a gang, which itself is lined to larger and more powerful organizations. The tradition of trust and hospitality which has been a part of border life for generations, is now corroded severely. People begin silently to wonder who is involved in the violence and who is not; everyday folks often do not know who can be trusted and who cannot. There is a breakdown of trust in law enforcement in the Rio Grande Valley for the same reason. Four things move back and forth across the River with ease: people, drugs, guns and ill-gotten money. And of these four, the money moves with the greatest ease to the American side, and it has extraordinarily corrosive effects. Newspaper accounts of public servants indicted for bribery are all to frequent in South Texas.
I and other American bishops along the Texas border meet regularly with our counterparts in northern Mexico. We speak together about what our people are suffering. The dimensions of human tragedy taking place right now in Mexico, and indeed in Latin American nations to the south of Mexico, are beyond heart-rending. The criminal elements operating in Mexico routinely kidnap innocent Central Americans trying to find their way to the United States. They are shot, raped, or ransomed. They are forced to carry drugs or face the execution of a kidnapped family member. Human trafficking, so forcefully denounced by Pope Francis, is commonplace as a result of the conditions I am describing. The tragedy is hemispheric. I need not tell you that the current debates about immigration reform hardly take note of the hemispheric pressures caused by the cartel violence and the human destruction it carries in its wake, not to mention the economic devastation it engenders.
I urge you to take heart of the need to reevaluate how our government, in cooperation with the government of Mexico, is addressing this unfolding disaster, and to take particular note of what is happening on both sides of the Rio Grande River. And I join with Congressman Filemon Vela in urging a reconsideration of our deportation policy so as to take into account the reality that the cartels are co-opting the very people fleeing their influence, often forcing them to cooperate with their plans, or face death for themselves or their families. I further encourage you to discuss these matters with officials in the Mexican government during your upcoming trip to Mexico City.
Daniel E. Flores, STD
Bishop of Brownsville
cc: Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó
Apostolic Nuncio to the United States