At a press conference held in the crypt of the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Divine Savior of the World in El Salvador, where the remains of St. Óscar Arnulfo Romero are interred, Catholic bishops pledged to “defend the dignity and rights of all human beings regardless of their origin or immigration status.”

Meeting in El Salvador Aug. 21-25, representatives of the bishops’ conferences of Central America, Mexico, North America, and the Caribbean, accompanied by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development, analyzed the various migratory scenarios at an international meeting.

“It pains us to see how so many people are victims of trafficking, abuse, and discrimination on their journey towards a better future and how the borders that should be places of encounter and fraternity are symbols of death and exclusion,” they said at the press conference.

The bishops called on the authorities for a joint regional effort to address the causes of forced migration and work to find sustainable solutions “so that each person is free to migrate or stay.”

According to data collected by the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), the Central America-Mexico migration corridor is the largest and most critical in the world. Mexicans and Central Americans make up the largest percentage of illegal immigrants in the United States, of which Central Americans represent 56% of unauthorized migrants.

The bishops said that as pastors of the Church, “we recognize that each person who is forced to leave his home carries with him a unique and painful story. Behind every person forced to emigrate there are broken dreams, separated families, and lives marked by suffering.”

The prelate asked people to pray for “all migrants and refugees, so that they find consolation in the midst of their difficulties and can build a decent and full life.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.