The bishop of El Paso, Texas, personally escorted a group of seven Latin American migrants who had previously been denied asylum in the United States across the border into the U.S. on Thursday, reports say.
Bishop Mark Seitz accompanied a Cuban, a young man from El Salvador, and a family of five back across the bridge from Ciudad Juarez to the United States.
Seitz told the online Catholic site Crux that the 9-year-old daughter of the family took his hand as they crossed the bridge, where these individuals “who never should have been returned in the first place” were met by border officials.
Despite an exchange of “tense” words, the migrants were eventually all allowed entry back into the United States.
Before embarking on the walk across the bridge from Mexico, Bishop Seitz offered an impassioned denunciation of the U.S. government’s immigration policies.
“A government and society which view fleeing children and families as threats; a government which treats children in U.S. custody worse than animals; a government and society who turn their backs on pregnant mothers, babies and families and make them wait in Ciudad Juarez without a thought to the crushing consequences on this challenged city … This government and this society are not well,” Seitz told the crowd that had gathered.
“We suffer from a life-threatening case of hardening of the heart. In a day when we prefer to think that prejudice and intolerance are problems of the past, we have found a new acceptable group to treat as less than human, to look down upon and to fear. And should they speak another language or are brown or black, well, it is that much easier to stigmatize them,” he said.
Seitz said the policies reflected a “heart-sick government and society” in an apparent call for open borders to the United States.
“Would we rather they die on the banks of the Rio Grande than trouble us with their presence?” he asked.
“We Americans need our hearts checked. Our hearts have grown too cold and too hard and that bodes ill for the health of our nation,” he said.
On Wednesday, Bishop Seitz said he intended to make a public demonstration at the border to shine a light on the “devastating consequences of inhumane border policies.”
The Remain in Mexico program requires asylum seekers to wait in Mexico where “inhumane and unsafe conditions” often prevail, Crux noted.
Curiously, in his speech, Bishop Seitz did not comment on how to improve the inhumane conditions for migrants in Mexico but limited his remarks to criticizing the United States.
“Every day the U.S. is sending up to 300 asylum seekers to one of the most dangerous places in Mexico with nothing and no one to help them,” he said. “This deserves our attention and all our efforts to change this ill-thought policy.”
The United States currently takes in an average of a million legal immigrants every year, the largest number of migrants received into any nation in the world by almost two to one over the next largest. The number of immigrants currently living in the country is approaching 45 million, more than three times as many as there were in 1980.