Catholic bishops from the border region of Mexico, Texas, and New Mexico have sent an open letter to “Catholics and All People of Good Will” to urge them to engage in advocacy for the protection of the rights of immigrants and to help keep immigrant families together.
The letter, called Family Beyond Borders, which was signed by the archbishops of San Antonio, Texas, Chihuahua, Mexico, and the bishops of other border region dioceses, begins with a quote from Pope Francis who, the bishops wrote, “has often stated that our efforts to renew the Church will only have credibility when we become courageous Christians and seek out those on the margins who are most in need.”
“The Holy Father has recognized the tragedy that involves millions of migrants on every continent; and the Holy Father has given expression to the Church’s responsibilities in their regard,” the bishops said.
“Today, immigrant families face many serious threats,” the bishops continued. The “threats” they noted especially are a culture of increasing violence in the countries of origin of immigrants, the dangers inherent in migrating, widespread poverty and unemployment, and the abuse and exploitation of immigrants by human traffickers.
“The current immigration system in the United States exacerbates these chronically difficult conditions affecting families,” the bishops wrote.
In their criticism of the U.S. immigration system, the bishops stated, “Currently there is a 17 to 20 year ‘wait’ for Mexicans to acquire a U.S. visa,” and that deportations and detentions of nonviolent illegal immigrants are breaking apart families.
“It is also said that immigrants and their families do not contribute to American society and culture, that they simply come to take advantage of the welfare system,” the bishops wrote. “Such perspectives lack realism, and do not perceive the demanding conditions affecting immigrants and their families; and they fail to acknowledge the contributions of immigrants to our society.”
The bishops stated, “There are many misperceptions concerning undocumented immigrants and their contribution to society in the United States.”
For example, immigrants do pay taxes; between one half and three quarters of undocumented immigrants pay state and federal taxes. They also contribute to Medicare and provide as much as $7 billion annually to the Social Security Fund, even though they are not eligible for Social Security benefits. Undocumented immigrants have a net benefit, not a drain, on the U.S. economy. The American Farm Bureau reports that without guest workers the U.S. economy would lose nearly $9 billion a year in agricultural production.
The bishops went on to describe the drug-related violence in Mexico and Central America, the countries from which most illegal immigrants come. In addition, they stated that one of the primary problems for illegal immigrants is the fact that parents come to the United States illegally, and then have children born in the U.S. – who are legal citizens. If the parents are eventually discovered and deported, the children remain with guardians or in foster care in the U.S. while their parents return to their country of origin.
The Church must “continue to welcome immigrants who bring their deep Catholic faith with them and thereby greatly enrich our Church,” the bishops wrote.