Illegal immigration needs 'humane' fix, bishops state as Mexican president visits

Archbishop Rafael Romo Muñoz and Bishop John Wester.
Archbishop Rafael Romo Muñoz and Bishop John Wester.


Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City and Archbishop Rafael Romo Muñoz of Tijuana, Mexico have issued a joint statement for Mexican President Felipe Calderón's visit to the United States. Calling on both leaders to reform migration policy, they urged a “humane” response to illegal immigration.

Bishop Wester chairs the Committee on Migration of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), while Archbishop Romo heads the Mexican Episcopal Conference’s Migration Commission.

“We urge both President Obama and President Calderon to work cooperatively toward the mutual goals of creating a safe border and a humane and fair immigration system,” they said.

Their Wednesday statement called the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico “extremely important,” adding that mutual cooperation and understanding is “paramount.”

“We pray that this visit will strengthen the political and policy-based relationship of the two leaders and their countries,” they said in their statement.

The bishops urged both leaders to focus upon immigration and its impact upon the most vulnerable, the migrant workers and their families. Illegal immigration should be prevented in “a humane manner” and not by total emphasis on enforcement measures, the two prelates advised.

“While we respect the obligation of both countries to ensure the integrity of their borders and the security of their peoples, we believe they can achieve these goals without sacrificing the basic human dignity and rights of the migrant.”

Calling for both countries to make a critical examination of their immigration policies, the statement said immigration reform legislation in the U.S. should become a priority.

They stated that the current U.S. immigration system does not provide sufficient legal visas for immigrants to work in jobs important to the U.S. economy. A system with more avenues for legal migration would reduce both the exploitation of migrants by human smugglers and the number of migrant deaths in the desert. Reform would also bring migrants “out of the shadows, so that they can live with their families without fear,” the prelates added.

Turing to Mexico, the two bishops said changes are necessary to prevent the abuse and exploitation of migrants by “criminal elements and corrupt officials.” They also urged a living wage employment for low-skilled workers so that they can remain home and “support their families in dignity,” which they argued would reduce illegal immigration over the long term.

Speaking about aid agreements and economic pacts, the bishops said that they should address the movement of labor in the future and consider the impact such agreements may have on migration.

“The United States and Mexico face a crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border, with drug cartels and human smuggling networks battling with law enforcement and placing citizens of both sides of the border at risk,” Bishop Wester and Archbishop Romo continued. “Repairing the immigration laws in both countries would help take migrants out of the enforcement equation and would permit law enforcement to focus their limited resources on criminal networks.”

Bi-national cooperation will solve immigration in a manner which serves the interests of both nations and respects the rights of both U.S. and Mexican citizens, their statement concluded.

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