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Statement of U.S. Catholic Border Bishops on a Border Wall

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Diocese of Laredo and Most Rev. James A. Tamayo participate in active assistance to immigrant brothers and sisters. Most Rev. James A. Tamayo was a cosigner in the following statement made by the US bishops along with the Catholic bishops on the Texas border.

February 15, 2019: As Catholic bishops of dioceses along the US-Mexico border, joined by some of our brother bishops across the nation, we oppose further construction of a border wall.

In our view, a border wall is first and foremost a symbol of division and animosity between two friendly countries. Furthermore, the wall would be an ineffective use of resources at a time of financial austerity; it would also would destroy parts of the environment, disrupt the livelihoods of ranchers and farmers, weaken cooperation and commerce between border communities, and, at least in one instance, undermine the right to the freedom of worship.

The truth is that the majority of persons coming to the U.S./Mexico border are asylum-seekers, many of whom are women and children from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador who are fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries.   Along their journey to safety, they encounter many dangers. A wall would not keep them safe from those dangers.  Rather, a wall would, further subject them to harm by drug cartels, smugglers, and human traffickers. 

When a wall was constructed in the San Diego area in the mid-1990s, for example, migrants were driven, often by smugglers, to the Arizona desert and other remote regions in order to cross the U.S./Mexico border.  According to U.S. Border Patrol statistics, over 7,000 migrants have died in these areas since 1998-2016.

We acknowledge the right of a sovereign nation to control its borders to ensure the security of its citizens. To this end, we support enforcement efforts to halt human trafficking, the transport of illegal guns, and drug smuggling, all of which, research shows, occur more frequently at ports of entry.  However, the recognized right of nations to control their borders also comes with a responsibility: the responsibility to implement security policies in a just and humane manner.  We strongly believe that border enforcement must protect and preserve the human rights and life of all persons, regardless of their immigration status.  

We agree with President Trump that there is a humanitarian challenge at our border, but we believe that erecting a wall will not solve the problem.  Indeed, it will exacerbate it.  Instead of building a wall, the administration and Congress should focus on policies that are more humane and, in the long-term, more effective, such as meaningfully addressing root causes and reforming our immigration system in a manner that is just, protects human rights and lives, and reflects American values.

As such, we oppose the declaration of a national emergency and the transfer of funds to construct a border wall. 

As Pope Francis has said, we must reject the globalization of indifference toward migrants and instead stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, who are desperately trying to find protection and to support their families.  As a nation, we should work together with the global community to address the root causes of flight, so migration becomes a choice, not a necessity.

In alphabetical order:
His Eminence Blase Cardinal Cupich                                                                                  
Archbishop of Chicago, IL
Most Reverend Gustavo Garcia-Siller
Archbishop of San Antonio, Texas
Most Reverend Gerald F. Kicanas
Apostolic Administrator
Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico                                                                  
Most Reverend Robert McElroy
Bishop of San Diego                                                                                 
His Eminence Sean Cardinal O’Malley
Archbishop of Boston, MA
Most Reverend Ricardo Ramirez
Bishop Emeritus of Las Cruces, New Mexico
Most Reverend Mark P. Seitz                                                                                
Bishop of El Paso, Texas                                                                         
Most Reverend Edward J. Weisenburger                                                                                                                                                 
Bishop of Tucson, Arizona              
Most Reverend James A. Tamayo                                                                       
Bishop of Laredo, Texas                                                                                         
Most Reverend John C. Wester
Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico
His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Tobin                                                               
Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey                                                                   
Most Reverend John E. Stowe
Bishop of Lexington, Kentucky