Latin America bishops call on US to ‘love the stranger’ in statement on immigration policies

Posted Feb 5, 2018

[Episcopal News Service] Anglican and Episcopal bishops from six Latin American countries met in El Salvador last week to discuss what they warned were “anti-migrant, racist and discriminatory policies adopted by the United States’ authorities,” according to a joint statement released after the meeting.

The statement was signed by Bishop Juan David Alvarado, Diocese of El Salvador; the Most Rev. Francisco Moreno, Primate of the Province of Mexico; Bishop Lloyd Allen, Diocese of Honduras; Bishop Julio Murray, Diocese of Panamá y Costa Rica; Bishop Philip Wright, Diocese of Belize; Bishop Benito Juárez, Diocese of Southeast Mexico; and Bishop Silvestre Romero, Diocese of Guatemala.

The meeting, Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, focused specifically on the Trump administration’s decisions to terminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and the Central American Minors refugee program and to end Temporary Protected Status for some populations, including those from Haiti and El Salvador. Though the bishops’ statement doesn’t reference President Donald Trump by name, it says the bishops have reached out to the president and the U.S. Congress, urging them to follow the biblical command to “love the stranger” as they search for just policies toward migrants.

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations has information on Temporary Protected Status here and DACA here.

You can read the bishops’ full letter below.

Position of the Diocesan Bishops of the Anglican Episcopal Church of Central America, Belize and Mexico on the termination of the TPS, DACA and CAM programs

The bishops of the Anglican Episcopal Churches of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, North and Southeast Mexico, met in San Salvador, El Salvador, from January 31 to February 2, 2018, to meditate, pray and analyze the evident hardening of the anti-migrant, racist and discriminatory policies adopted by the United States’ authorities, and that are embodied in the termination of the following programs: the Temporary Protected Status (TPS); Central American Minors (CAM) refugee program, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

These policies will affect hundreds of thousands of migrants, for example, people from Haiti, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Belize, Mexico and other countries.

Faced with this unresolved migration crisis, the diocesan bishops participating in the meeting expressed their position to the administration of the President and to the Congress of the United States of America. Specifically, we urged the search for:

  • humanitarian and fair reception for migrants in the United States,
  • the reasonable opportunity to identify ways to legalize their stay,
  • particularly guarantee mobility and protection for children and adolescents, and
  • protection of family unity.

As previously expressed in the same spirit in the letter issued by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church gathered in Phoenix in 2010:

1. We exhort the authorities of the United States to keep in mind that God has always commanded us to love the stranger: “The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:34).

2. We pray that the Holy Spirit will touch the hearts and minds of the authorities of the United States of America, so that they understand that migration is to the benefit of everyone.

3. We do not accept the re-victimization of these migrants, who in principle are good people and many have been victims of death threats, of harsh conditions of economic and social vulnerability, while others have been victims of violence from both gangs and agents of the State of their countries of origin.

4. We denounce that ending the adopted migration programs, without a possible alternative solution, violates human dignity and human rights, is discriminatory and racist.

5. We absolutely reject the manipulative assertions of certain politicians pointing to migrants as criminals based solely on their irregular migration status and their belonging to other cultures and races.

6. We ask the political authorities of the United States to refrain from expelling the migrants, since this act would be an affront against God, our churches and divine creation.

7. We give thanks to, and join the struggle of, the Episcopal churches of the United States and other denominations as well as groups of people who defend the human rights of migrants. We invite you to continue working together on regional and interprovincial projects to help resolve the migration crisis.

8. We recognize the support, solidarity and sensitivity of the people of the United States, who have made space in their hearts and consciences for migrants. To these noble and humane people belong the faithful of churches, legislators, senators and politicians sincerely concerned that this situation be regularized, seeking peace and social harmony.

9. We urge our political authorities in Central America, Belize and Mexico to coordinate and work on decent and humane proposals in favor of migrants and then present them in a negotiating dialogue with the United States’ authorities.

10. We demand the political authorities of our countries, regions and the United States, to work together to promote structural changes in their respective countries so that there are conditions of employment, health, education, security, housing, basic services and other conditions so that people abandon the idea of emigrating.

11. In the face of the migration crisis, the united voices of the bishops in this meeting remind all political authorities that it does not matter what was done incorrectly in the past or what was omitted to be done, but how beautiful we can build together hereinafter, cultivating in the present a fraternal dialogue, respectful and dignified among all, to attend to the migratory victims.

12. We must all remember that no one is a migrant, because although we come from one place and go to another, we are always within God’s creation. He has made us stewards of creation so that we live together in harmony, freedom, and with equality for mobility, equity and responsibility.

Finally, we express to our sister and brother migrants: we will continue working for you and we commit ourselves to work in pastoral care for migrants at the local, regional and interprovincial levels.

San Salvador, February 02, 2018.


Comments (8)

  1. PJ Cabbiness says:

    I would encourage the Bishops to focus their attention on the corruption, poverty, violence, sexism, homophobia and malaise within their own countries rather than insulting and unjustly criticizing the United States. Their position is self serving, hypocritical and highly offensive to me.

  2. Miguel Rosada says:

    Their time would have been better spent addressing the serious injustice, corruption, racism, violence in their own countries that force people to flee and break the laws of another country in search of a better life. I also do not recall any statement by these bishops addressing the migratory crises created by the communist government of Cuba over the last 5 decades, nor the plight of Cuban refugees often abused and exploited while trekking through Central America to seek sanctuary in the US. It is the business of American citizens and their elected officials to decide how to solve the crisis of millions of persons living illegally in the US. Hopefully that can be done with compassion and regard to the dignity of all persons. That however should not be the business of bishops who live elsewhere and have plenty of issues they should be concerned about in their own homes!

  3. Bruce Rienstra says:

    I have no problem with these bishops commenting in this way. They referenced the House of Bishops statement from 2010 and are being supportive to TEC. There is something very disturbing about a nation of immigrants forgetting that they too were immigrants and were welcomed. We should be continuing that tradition.

    Sure Latin America does not have an unblemished past neither does the US. To say ‘because of your past you have no right to speak now’ can be applied to a lot of societies. What if someone had said, “USA because of your ethnic cleansing of North America you have no right to criticise ethnic cleansing in other countries.”

  4. william dailey says:

    The deeper problem here is the fact that a large number of US Church officials agree with the characterizations of the United States. Criticism of American values is the trend. Exporting citizens from failed states only creates more failed states. Europe is the prime example of this. US church leaders find it simpler, and self satisfying, to be critical of the US than to recognize and attempt to deal with the real problems and issues facing our Nation and the church today. If this continues there is no happy ending for the Church or our Nation.

  5. Joe Prasad says:

    Corruption and poverty are serious problems in many countries including Latin American countries. Latin American countries like many others such as Middle East and South East Asia have not been able to freely elect their own government which means that often their economic and foreign policies are dictated by outside powers. In such situations, government officials often tend to be corrupt which in turn breeds more corruption and poverty.
    When confronted with poverty and corrupt governments, citizens often try to go to countries where they can get decent wage and live with some respect and dignity. It is not surprising that in the Western hemisphere, Latin Americans try to come to US or go to Canada.
    In items 9 &10 of the letter, the Bishops do take up the issue of migration with some of the Latin American countries. I like to say that economic prosperity leads to higher standard of living and this in turn reduces corruption and poverty. It is highly unlikely that citizens will migrate if they enjoy a decent life within their own home country.

  6. BD Howes says:

    Advice to Bruce Rienstra. Stop with the talking points! Not all of our families immigrated to the US but that, like the rest of your spin, is irrelevant. This is not terribly difficult for me. We should all fear becoming a country with arbitrary laws and arbitrary application of laws.

  7. Terry Francis says:

    What is it going to take to get people like Bruce Rienstra to realize that immigrants who come here LEGALLY will always be welcomed to this country by most Americans. Yes we are a nation of immigrants but we are also a nation of laws. Progressives seem hopelessly incapable of knowing the difference between legal and illegal immigrants!

  8. william dailey says:

    When will the constant rant that Americans are racist stop? The Episcopal hierarchy seems compelled to make us wear this hair shirt until we are to worn down to resist. Perhaps the Bishops should travel to these failed countries instead of Alaska to get a sense of reality.

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