“So, one of the roles that I have in the conference,” Seitz explained, “is to see if we can find ways to inform people better and to show them ways that they can really make a difference in the lives of those who have come among us.”
In El Paso, Seitz said his diocese operates five shelters and regularly collaborates with governmental and nongovernmental agencies to meet the needs of the record-high migrants who have come through his diocese.
The diocese’s shelters have been consistently full as the El Paso sector of the border has thousands of crossings daily.
Despite the numbers, Seitz has advocated for more lenient border policies, criticizing recent decisions made by the Biden administration to implement certain restrictions, some of which were originally imposed under the Trump administration.
To Seitz, comprehensive immigration reform involves establishing “a more orderly system” in which “there are clear lines” and “people are carefully vetted.” He also believes reform needs to be aimed at helping alleviate the root causes of mass migration.
“We as a nation, the United States, have a responsibility, certainly as Christians, but even as a nation, one can see where we have a moral responsibility to do what we can to assist those sending countries to overcome some of the things that are causing this instability and to do it in a way that respects the rights of the people there,” he said.
The U.S. currently devotes $25 billion to border security, according to a March statement by the White House. Seitz said that “if even some of that were directed more towards the situation in sending countries and investing that in ways that really have an impact, we think we could change considerably the situation, the numbers of people who are seeking refuge.”
“Frankly,” Seitz added, “we bear some responsibility because of the fact that we’re the main ones that are supporting organized crime in these countries by our use of illegal drugs.”
Bishop James Tamayo, Diocese of Laredo
Bishop James Tamayo of Laredo, a city with a population that is over 95% Hispanic, said that migrants’ “concerns and their realities are something that can’t wait.”
“People are being killed, people are being threatened, people have no food, no educational opportunities or families.”
Tamayo said that he is grateful for how the faithful in his diocese have responded to the crisis, helping to give temporary shelter, food, and help getting to their U.S. sponsors.
Though Tamayo said that he understands many people are fearful about the record numbers crossing the border, he said that “in the Diocese of Laredo, I’ve always reminded our people [to] look at your ancestors and where did they come from? Where are your cultural roots, and then what have they contributed?”
“Look at the way we live today. Look at our society that we’re living in. Who built this up? What gave you the opportunities? It was those same immigrants that settled here that cared not only for their family and themselves, but for the community, and it opened up doors for all of us.”
Bishop Michael Olson, Diocese of Fort Worth
“At the heart of it,” said Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth, “is compassion, but also a sense of justice.”
“You can’t talk about the migration and refugee problem without talking about human trafficking,” he said, explaining that his diocese sits right amid “the main thoroughfare for human trafficking.”
Though Olson said that his diocese has worked extensively to help protect unaccompanied migrant children from trafficking by reuniting them with their parents, he believes that the first step to solving the issue is ensuring that there is a secure border.
“We need a sound border,” he said. “The Holy Father spoke to us [Texas bishops] … and he said: ‘Where the devil is most active today is in human trafficking, this slavery, this trade.’”
“We have to hold ourselves accountable and politicians accountable because there’s been no incentive for politicians from either party to make legitimate changes,” he explained.
“The Church is very pro-immigrant, especially here in the United States,” he went on. “The problem is, without a border and without a clear process, we can’t serve anybody.”
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