Regional Bishops Issue Joint Statement on Migration

June 11, 2010 By Public Affairs Office

Cooperation among governments in region, economic development key factors
U.S. should afford legal protection to foreign workers

WASHINGTON—Participants at the Catholic bishops’ Regional Consultation on Migration in Washington, June 2-4 issued a joint statement calling for protection, hospitality, service and justice to immigrants throughout the hemisphere.

The bishops called attention to several issues that should be addressed on a regional level, such as the promotion of sustainable economic development in the hemisphere, violence and drug smuggling, human trafficking, protection of migrants, refugees and other vulnerable population, and special assistance to Haiti.

They also called upon the Congress of the United States and the Obama Administration to affirm the country’s tradition as a nation of immigrants 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,” said the bishops. “It also would end deportations of family members and the breakup of families.”

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 Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People and representatives from the Latin American Council of Bishops’ Conferences (CELAM).

Full text of statement follows.

Statement of the Participants in the Regional Consultation on Migration
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Washington, D.C.
June 4, 2010

As Catholic bishops of the United States, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and Canada gathered at our regional consultation meeting in Washington, D.C., June 2-4, 2010, joined at our meeting by religious and lay persons working with migrants, we reaffirm our commitment to vulnerable persons who migrate in search of protection or for a better life for themselves and their families. We acknowledge and appreciate the presence at our meeting of His Excellency Archbishop Antonio Maria Veglio, President of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People and representative of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.

We offer several reflections on the current situation regarding migration in this hemisphere, consistent with our long-held view that persons on the move should be protected from harm while in transit and welcomed with hospitality, service, and justice. This view is consistent with the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who calls upon all to “welcome the stranger” and who declared “for whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me.” (Mt. 25: 35, 40).

We stand in solidarity with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, who in his recent address to the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People, called upon the nations of the world to establish policies and plans which give migrants and refugees “opportunities to obtain legal status, promoting the fair rights to family reunification, asylum and refugee status, compensating for necessary restrictive measures and opposing the appalling trafficking of human beings.” We echo the Holy Father’s call to international organizations, international bodies, and nation-states to “resolve the crucial questions of security and development to the benefit of all.” The lack of security and development are the very factors that contribute to the need for people to migrate.

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. 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.

At the same time, there are many in the Church and other people of goodwill who work hard to protect the rights of persons on the move and who work to change laws to ensure the protection of basic human rights. We stand with them as together we try to educate others about the harsh realities of migration and the need to demonstrate compassion and justice to those less fortunate.

We also acknowledge and support the right of our governments to ensure the integrity of their borders and the common good of their citizenry. We strongly believe, however, that these goals can be achieved and the rule of law preserved without violating human rights. Governments can and must collaborate effectively to achieve regional development and stability.

With these perspectives in mind, we call attention to specific issues which should be addressed on a regional basis, with cooperation from all governments of this hemisphere:

The Promotion of Sustainable Economic Development in this Hemisphere. The factors which compel people to migrate in search of work are primarily, but not solely, economic. Families in poorer countries struggle to meet their most basic needs and living-wage jobs remain scarce. Root economic causes of migration must be addressed so that migrants can remain in their home countries and support their families. The impact of current and proposed trade agreements and agricultural policy in the region must be reviewed in terms of the displacement of small farmers and workers, and subsequent migration.

For example, the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), touted initially as the key to economic development in the region, has failed to reach those on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. International institutions, such as international lending institutions, have not adequately addressed the needs of the poor in the region.

The goals of the millennium have not been fully realized, and now climate change is adding another element to the migration phenomenon. These economic tools must be used in a way that increases the ability of the poor to escape poverty and not be forced to migrate to other countries.

The Economic Drivers of Violence. Economic insecurity and deprivation add to a number of social issues that together provide fertile breeding grounds for violence. The lack of economic opportunity as well as the lack of a sense of social meaning, especially among younger adults, fuels the resort to underground and illicit activities in many of the countries of the hemisphere. The increasing power of drug smuggling networks must be combated, both by law enforcement efforts but also by eradicating the market for these illicit substances, particularly in the United States.

The Protection of Migrants, Refugees, and Other Vulnerable People in Transit. Persons on the move in this hemisphere are subject to exploitation, abuse, and prolonged detention in all countries. Laws must be examined and reformed in each country to establish mechanisms to ensure safe passage, protection, and due process for migrants and their families, while ensuring that violent criminals are constrained.

The Scourge of Human Trafficking. While progress has been made in raising awareness of human trafficking in this hemisphere, much more must be achieved to eradicate this scourge. Governments and nongovernmental actors must work together to address the economic and social factors that make people vulnerable to trafficking. They must root out trafficking networks, and provide rescue and services to victims. Special attention must be paid to children, who are the most vulnerable victims.

Assistance for Haiti. We call upon all governments of this hemisphere to provide special care to the people of Haiti as they attempt to rebuild their country after the January earthquake. We urge all nations to continue with their generosity and support, but also to apply and amend their migration laws to accommodate, to the greatest extent possible, Haitians and their families who can no longer remain in Haiti.

As an immigrant nation, the United States and the American people, including Catholics, have traditionally welcomed newcomers and helped to integrate them into the country. 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 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. 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.

May we be worthy of the admonition of our Lord and Savior, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me….” (Mt. 25: 34-35).

Delivered in Washington, D.C., on 4 June, the year of our Lord, 2010


Most Reverend Rutilio del Riego
Auxiliary Bishop of San Bernardino
Chairman, Subcommittee for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and People on the Move
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Most Reverend Pedro Pablo Elizondo
Bishop of Chetumal
Member, Commission for the Pastoral Care of Persons on the Move
Mexican Bishops’ Conference

Most Reverend François Gayot, S.M.M.
Archbishop Emeritus of Cap-Haïtien, Haïti

Most Reverend Pedro Hernández
Bishop of Darién, Panamá

Most Reverend Bernardo Hombach
Bishop Emeritus of Granada, Nicaragua
Chairman of Human Mobility, Bishops’ Conference of Nicaragua

Most Reverend Fracois Lapierre
Bishop of Saint-Hyacinthe
Episcopal Conference of Canada

Most Reverend John Manz
Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago

Most Reverend Thomas Maurus Muldoon
Bishop of Juticalpa
Chairman of Social Services and Caritas
Episcopal Conference of Honduras

Most Reverend Francisco Ozoria
Bishop of San Pedro de Macorَís
President of the Commission on Persons on the Move
Episcopal Conference of the Dominican Republic

Most Reverend Alvaro L. Ramazzini Imeri
Bishop of San Marcos, Guatemala

Most Reverend Ricardo Ramirez
Bishop of Las Cruces

Most Reverend Rafael Romo
Archbishop of Tijuana
Chairman, Pastoral Care of Persons on the Move
Episcopal Conference of Mexico

Most Reverend Angel San Casimiro
Bishop of Alajuela
Episcopal Conference of Costa Rica

Most Reverend Anthony Taylor
Bishop of Little Rock

Most Reverend Raúl Vera
Bishop of Saltillo, Mexico

Most Reverend John C. Wester
Bishop of Salt Lake City
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration

Keywords: migration, immigration reform, regional consultation on migration, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops