Letter to the Editor | Friday, February 19, 2016
As Catholics, we can no longer stand by, passively allowing hundreds of vulnerable individuals to die every year on the U.S.-México border because we are neither informed nor motivated enough to change a deadly and ineffective border policy.
By following this week’s Viewpoint letters, you have been exposed to migrants’ experiences, stories of family separation and the deadly consequences of the U.S.’s current border policy. Wrapping up immigration week, this letter addresses how we — individually and as a Catholic community — should address the issue of immigration from a pro-life perspective.
Speaking to Congress last September, Pope Francis charged public officials to defend life at all stages, including helping migrants across the world. While pro-life is often misrepresented as only pertaining to the lives of the unborn, caring for and supporting our vulnerable migrant brothers and sisters is essential to a pro-life ideology: defending the lives of all humans from conception to natural death. Yesterday’s letter discussed how the “funneling effect” has caused thousands of attempted border-crossing deaths in the Tucson sector alone. While some see death as tragic but necessary for border security, the funneling effect doesn’t deter migrant crossings but rather pushes desperate and vulnerable individuals into dangerous terrain to die of dehydration.
While the simple solution to this staggering death rate is to provide basic humanitarian aid to those crossing the border, Fr. Bill Remmel, former priest of Most Holy Trinity, informed us that Catholic churches along the border have generally been bystanders rather than active participants in giving this life-saving aid. Afraid to polarize, parishes have disregarded Christ’s call to protect human life. This is unacceptable. It doesn’t matter whether you support open borders or isolationism, we as Catholics cannot ignore those who are dying on our doorstep because we are too divided politically to provide water to dehydrated individuals. Their dignity cannot go unnoticed any longer. The pro-life perspective demands all humans have an equal right to the necessities of life, irrespective of country of origin. Our society should meet the needs of the most vulnerable, whether it be the unborn or undocumented migrants.
In conclusion, we would like to echo Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words from “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Addressing non-engaged religious leaders who considered his work “unwise and untimely,” Dr. King reminds us that amidst oppression, there are far too many good-hearted, caring people that stand by allowing injustice to occur. Just as Dr. King could not sit by idly in Georgia while horrific injustices occurred in Alabama, we must act because “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” for “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
This is not an easy task. Standing up for migrants will cause tension. People will disagree with you. But as a Catholic community, we cannot shy away from difficult subjects, because fighting for the rights of the oppressed is not a gentle suggestion — it is a moral imperative. Our charge to you: Learn about what’s going on along the U.S.-México border and join the fight to end the loss of life. Bring the message back to your home churches. Whether you live in Arizona or Maine, encourage family and friends to support humanitarian efforts in the desert through groups like No More Deaths and Samaritans, to speak out against the ineffective and lethal “funneling effect,” to mobilize to stop the deportation of families and to rally for the new sanctuary movement, always remembering, “we judge ourselves as a community of faith by how we treat the most vulnerable among us” (USCCB, 28).