Bishop Flores: With respect to migration, uphold both law and compassion

Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville delivers the Thomas Aquinas Day Lecture at TAC Jan 28 2019 Photo courtesy of TAC CNA Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville delivers the St. Thomas Day Lecture at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paul, Calif., Jan. 28, 2019. Photo courtesy of TAC.

In an interview earlier this month, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville urged that US immigration law be respected, but that that law also consider the reality facing immigrants.

"The United States has the responsibility to vet those who come into the country and to make sure the laws of the country are respected, but the laws ought to look at the human reality," Bishop Flores told Border Report Nov. 7.

"We can be a nation of laws and still be a nation of compassion," he added.

The Diocese of Brownsville comprises four Texas counties on or near the US-Mexico border, where the Rio Grande empties into the Gulf of Mexico. It has for years seen a rise in migrants and asylum seekers.

When the number of unaccompanied minors attempting to cross the border rose sharply in 2014, the diocese's prison ministry expanded to become "more of a detention center ministry," Flores has said.

The diocese opposed a federal government plan to survey the land around a historic chapel which could lead to the construction of a portion of a border barrier between the United States and Mexico. A judge ruled in February that the surveying could go ahead, but the diocese has vowed to continue fighting the project.

Bishop Flores was among the 10 candidates nominated for president or vice president of the US bishops' conference. The Nov. 12 vote elected Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles as president, and Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit as vice president.

In the interview with Border Report, Bishop Flores noted that "the U.S. bishops have been asking for a number of decades in terms of re-calibrating how we have written our laws to more adequately reflect the current reality on the ground."

He added: "In my view, sometimes immigration rhetoric in the country is fairly distant from the reality on the ground."

The bishop said that "not all immigrants are the criminal element. The reality is the innocent immigrant is the one who is fleeing that reality. And right now the law does not have a way and we need to distinguish that."

Bishop Flores said it is "heartbreaking to hear there's a breakdown in society in other countries that's causing people to move."

He added that the Church "has the responsibility to call on governments of all kind to address the humanitarian [need] in a cooperative fashion because people deserve to be treated better than they're being treated, no matter who they are and it really is beyond tragic."

"There's violence all over the world but the immigrant is a victim of violence in a particularly consistently brutal way. … We can't pretend it's not there," he stated.

In recent months, the Trump administration restricted protections granted to asylum seekers in the US, cutting in half the time allotted them to prepare for their interviews.

It has also limited asylum eligibility to those who had already applied and been rejected for asylum in any third-party country passed through on their way to the US.

In August, the administration announced its intent to deny green cards and a path to citizenship to immigrants in the country legally who use public benefits.

And in January the Department of Homeland Security announced Migrant Protection Protocols providing that migrants arriving illegally or without proper documentation "may be returned to Mexico and wait outside of the U.S. for the duration of their immigration proceedings, where Mexico will provide them with all appropriate humanitarian protections for the duration of their stay."

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