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Bishops of North and Central America urge countries to protect migrants

.- A group of North and Central American bishops say their governments must take responsibility for the legal protection of migrants.

“We continue to witness great suffering among migrants in our countries and regions,” the bishops wrote in their June 30 statement. They said these migrants frequently experience exploitation and abuse from public officials, employers and crime organizations.

While acknowledging their governments' right to establish laws, the bishops said any law that separates migrant families or threatens life must be abolished for being “unjust and inhuman.” They placed special emphasis on the protection of migrant families, women and children.

The group of Catholic bishops from the North and Central American regions and the Caribbean released the statement after a June 2011 meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Representatives from the bishops' conferences of the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras and Guatemala were present, as were the Council of Bishops' Conferences of Latin America, Caritas International, and religious and lay migration experts.

In their joint statement, the bishops explained that the ultimate solution to the dilemmas surrounding migration is in “development and economic opportunities throughout the hemisphere, so that families can find work and live in dignity in their counties of origin.”

The bishops clarified their definition of migrants, saying it includes those seeking work, asylum and refuge, as well as victims of human trafficking.

The bishops' statements reflect growing concern over the number of immigrant abductions and deaths, especially along Mexico's border with the United States.

Last year more than 70 South and Central American migrants were kidnapped and killed in northern Mexico. Mexico's National Commission or Human Rights says 9,758 migrants were kidnapped between the years 2008 and 2009.

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