By Christine Rousselle
On Tuesday evening, US President Donald Trump highlighted humanitarian problems present along the US-Mexico border and issued a call for increased security, including the construction of additional barriers on the border. His remarks were met with mixed reactions and frustration from Catholics across the United States.
Among the points raised by Trump in his Jan. 8 address is that approximately 90 percent of the heroin supply in the United States enters the country through the border with Mexico. “More Americans will die from drugs this year than were killed in the entire Vietnam War,” said Trump.
Trump also highlighted the dangers of the journey from Central America to the United States, saying he feared children were being used as “pawns” by “vicious coyotes and ruthless gangs.”
Isaac Cuevas, the director of immigration and public affairs for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, told CNA that while he agrees with Trump’s assessment that there is a humanitarian crisis at the border, he did not believe either Trump’s address, or the response by Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), were signs that progress will be made.
“Both sides agree that immigration is an issue that can no longer be ignored, but they also need to agree on where change has to start,” Cuevas said.
“These challenges in migration will not go away with the implementation of barriers, but we all agree that the system, especially from a legal standpoint, is broken and needs help.”
Cuevas told CNA he thinks that it would be a “common-sense solution” for both parties to work together and create a plan that would both strengthen security at the border and create a way for people who are already here to obtain legal status: “A pathway to citizenship, for good people making positive contributions in our communities and to our way of life in this country,” he said.
Bishop Daniel Flores of the Diocese of Brownsville, which is located along the southern border, tweeted Jan. 9: “Mothers and children are fleeing the very criminal elements that we ourselves recognize represent a mortal danger. Are we not capable of sustaining a response that both protects the vulnerable and restrains the menace?”
Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark said Jan. 9 of “Tuesday’s immigration speeches” that he was deeply disappointed by “the dehumanizing words used to describe our immigrant sisters and brothers. These men, women and children are neither numbers, nor criminal statistics, but flesh and blood people with their own stories and histories. Most are fleeing human misery and brutal violence that threatens their lives. False and fear-filled caricatures seek to provoke a sort of amnesia that would have this great nation deny our roots in immigrants and refugees.”
The cardinal quoted Pope Francis, and then said, “Those coming to our borders seeking asylum or escaping crushing poverty are not pawns in a political debate, but rather the strangers and aliens our Scriptures constantly instruct us to welcome … I beg all our legislative leaders to come together for the common good.”
The stalemate over the border wall continues amid the USCCB’s National Migration Week, taking place Jan. 6-12. The week’s theme this year is “Building Communities of Welcome”.
Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the USCCB Committee on Migration, said Jan. 4 that “In this moment, it is particularly important for the Church to highlight the spirit of welcome that we are all called to embody in response to immigrant and refugee populations who are in our midst sharing our Church and our communities.”