USCCB News Release
April 16, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
U.S. BISHOPS URGE PRESIDENTS OBAMA, CALDERÓN TO CONSIDER RIGHTS OF IMMIGRANTS, ROOT CAUSES OF MIGRATION IN THEIR DISCUSSIONS
WASHINGTON—WASHINGTON—The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) urged U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderón to consider the rights of migrants in their discussions and to work together to bring humanity to the bi-national immigration system during President Obama's visit to Mexico.
Speaking on behalf of the U.S. Bishops, Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Migration, expressed the importance that immigration be part of the conversation, since it is a key factor in the relationship between both countries.
"Immigration is not simply a domestic issue, but also one of foreign affairs," Bishop Wester said. "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."
According to Bishop Wester one of the misperceptions of the U.S. immigration debate is that 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," Bishop Wester said, insisting also that both countries need to work together to address the root causes of migration.
Bishop Wester highlighted the irony that while migrants help fill the jobs needed to turn capital into profit in most places in the industrialized world, migrant workers are left without legal protection, criminalized, and blamed for myriad social ills.
The de facto migration relationship between the United States and Mexico is a prime example. Migrants from Mexico, unable to fully support their families at home, are forced to take a dangerous journey to the United States and fill menial but important jobs in the U.S. economy.
"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."
Under this system, Mexico wins financially as well, as the country receives up to $20 billion in remittances per year without having to pay attention to the flight of those in Mexico who struggle to support their families at the lower rungs of the economy. "What is left 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," lamented Bishop Wester.
"The losers in this globalization game are the migrants themselves," he said, "who have no political power and are unable to defend themselves from inevitable abuse and exploitation, in a system which preys upon their desperation and expropriates their work ethic."
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.
Bishop Wester concluded that immigration reform would help reduce violence at the border, stating, "By legalizing the flow of migrant labor into our country, law enforcement could better focus on drug and human smugglers who are the source of so much violence along our border,"
He added, "And by working to promote economic development through aid and trade, the two nations can strengthen employment alternatives to drug trafficking and address the root causes of migration."