The U.S. Conference of Bishops released a statement today asking President Obama to consider that “migrants are not responsible for the drug violence” on the border. Bishop Wester said that “criminals, smugglers, corrupt officials and drug and arms dealers on both sides” of the border are the cause of violence, not those seeking jobs in the United States.
President Obama who was in Mexico for less than 24 hours, met with Mexican President Felipe Calderón to discuss the increasing drug and border violence.
Border violence has escalated in the past several months as feuding drug lords have stepped up their attacks. During the last two years, over 10,000 murders have been attributed to drug-related violence.
John C. Wester, the Bishop of Salt Lake City and the chairman of the U.S. Bishops Committee on Migration, said, “Immigration is not simply a domestic issue, but also one of foreign affairs.”
“The relationship between President Obama and Mexican President Calderón may hold the key to many problems impacting the United States and Mexico domestically—drug-related violence and the economy, for sure, but also immigration,” he added.
On the topic of the immigration debate, Bishop Wester said that the issue is surrounded by many misperceptions, one of them being that the “passage of an immigration reform bill by Congress would be 'the magic bullet that slays the dragon of illegal immigration.'”
He emphasized that “while such a bill is indispensable to a long-term solution and must be acted upon—sooner rather than later—it should be understood that the humane and lasting answer to this vexing social issue lies in regional, if not global, cooperation among nation-states.”
“Enforcement is not the only solution to illegal immigration, reform of laws should be included,” Wester said and stressed that both the U.S. and Mexico need to cooperate on the root causes of migration.
Wester also pointed to the irony that migrants play a vital role in turning “capital into profit” in most developed countries, but enjoy little “legal protection” and are often “blamed for myriad social ills.”
“As a result, the United States receives the benefit of their toil and taxes without having to worry about protecting their rights, either in the courtroom or the workplace,” said the bishop. “When convenient, they are made political scapegoats and attacked—both rhetorically and through worksite raids,” he remarked.
Wester said that the Mexican government benefits as well since “up to $20 billion” flows from workers in the U.S. back to their families in Mexico. The result, he said, is a “go north” policy which “exposes Mexican citizens to the ravages of human smugglers, corrupt law enforcement officials, and potential death in the desert.”
The biggest losers of the “globalization game are the migrants” because they have “no political power” and cannot “defend themselves from inevitable abuse and exploitation.”
A humane approach to immigration reform that considers these issues would help reduce violence on the border by creating a legal system that regulates the flow of migrant labor into the United States, Bishop Wester argued.
This solution would allow, according to Wester, a “better focus on drug and human smugglers” who are the real source of violence on the border.
Bishop Wester also cautioned against those who try to send the wrong message about the drug violence at the border.
“Migrants are not responsible for the drug violence on the border—criminals, smugglers, corrupt officials, drugs and arms dealers on both sides are. Both presidents should make a clear statement to this regard,” he said.