Bishops from North, Central, South America and the Caribbean denounced the “horrors” suffered by immigrants throughout the Western hemisphere.
“Poverty forces thousands of people to emigrate and seek their daily bread outside their native countries,” they said.
“As long as this causal structure is not resolved, even though immigration laws are made stricter, the flow of immigrants will continue with the consequences that have repeatedly been pointed out.”
The bishops released their statement at the end of the 2012 Regional Bishops’ Consultation on Migration, held May 28-30 in Santo Domingo.
In their remarks, they also denounced the situation faced by many immigrants from Central America who cross Mexico to reach the United States and endure terrible suffering not only at the hands of false guides but also of organized criminal gangs.
“Across Central America and Mexico, the members of organized crime take immigrants as prisoners especially through the crime of kidnapping in order to extort their families,” the bishops said.
“When these immigrants refuse to cooperate or do not come up with the entire ransom money, they are brutally tortured and killed, as demonstrated by the events related to the massacre of 72 immigrants in San Fernando Tamaulipas, the discovery of hundreds of bodies in clandestine graves and the latest massacre of 49 people killed in Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon,” they noted.
The bishops also denounced the continual increase in sex trafficking and slave labor, especially involving children, in order to reap “criminal profits.”
They also expressed concern for immigrant children who travel unaccompanied and separated from their families, as well as the drastic increase in deportations from the United States and Mexico, which has led to more family separations.”
The current U.S. government “has broadened the role of the State in the application of immigration laws, which leads to abuses of fundamental rights,” the bishops said.
“Unjust laws in states like Arizona and Alabama, which are the result of a fear of immigrants, lead to xenophobia and are an attack on the Church’s right to serve immigrants,” they continued.
The bishops also denounced the suffering of Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic.
“Amid this scene of pain and suffering, we thank God for the innumerable gestures and acts of solidarity offered to immigrants” by local support groups and shelters and for efforts to achieve more just immigration laws, they said.
The bishops also expressed their commitment to promote specific initiatives, including comprehensive immigration reform in the United States that respects the rights of immigrants, avoids separating families and reduces deportations, and approval by the Mexican Senate of a transitory visa that grants protection and safety to Central Americans who are passing through on their way to the US.
Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas, told CNA the issue of immigrants moving from Central America to the United States is complex. “What happens here (in the Dominican Republic) is very different from what happens on the border between the United States and Mexico,” he said.
The president of the Committee on Human Mobility of the Bishops’ Conference of Cuba, Bishop Marcelo Gonzalez Amador of Santa Clara, expressed his satisfaction for the chance to meet with other bishops from Latin America and the Caribbean and share their experiences involving immigrants, “whose sufferings, sorrows, concerns, and hopes as well, we make our own.”