June 23, 2014
I have been called to serve the Church as a Bishop, a Bishop of a Diocese on the border. My challenge, as that of every Christian, is, to the best of my ability and under the guidance of the Church, to apply the Gospel teaching of Jesus to present day situations.
This will be my main role when I testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday afternoon. As I do so I will also bring with me the substantial experience and expertise of the Church in her charitable outreach to migrants in our hemisphere and around the world. We do not know these situations as abstract numbers or statistics but as people with faces. When it comes to Unaccompanied Minors and to mothers and families who are bringing young children, we know them as people who are fleeing for their lives, experiencing violence and unspeakable abuse on their journey, and finding themselves in a place unknown to them, with only the clothes on their backs. How can we fail to show them compassion?
I will clarify the US Bishops support for the right of a nation to control her borders and to enforce the rule of law. We do not consider the current broken immigration system as in any way serving as a model for the way a country should receive migrants. Migration should be orderly, safe and controlled in a way that is consistent with the common good.
While many reasons can be given for the influx of young migrants we believe that the primary reason they are departing their homes and their families is the pervasive and brutal violence that has become a part of everyday life in the three Central American countries from which the vast majority come: Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. As we were told on our trip to those countries, the migrants are not simply leaving their homes, they are fleeing.
We believe that other nations that have opened their doors to people fleeing violence in accord with the United Nations Conventions to which we are a signatory, such as Lebanon which has accepted more than 1,000,000 who have fled from the Syrian violence Jordan; Kenya, Thailand and many other nations which host refugees. The world will be watching to see how we handle this much smaller influx.
By the grace of God I hope that my testimony will help to reach the hearts of these leaders to overcome the fear and political paralysis that prevents us from responding as the compassionate nation we are. This migration challenge, which involves the most vulnerable among us, is a test of the moral character of our nation. Let us pray that we do not fail this test.