In the Heartland With Bishop Pates: Immigration: A Moral Crisis

by Bishop Pates | July 10, 2019

Bishop Richard Pates

The heart of anyone with human sympathy sank with the deplorable sight of 23 month old Angie Valeria and her father, Oscar Martinez Ramirez, as their bodies lay lifeless on the banks of the Rio Grande.  Seeking a better life from the cruel existence of El Salvador, they fell victim yes to the waters of a rushing river but even more so to human indifference.

This tragedy is multiplied daily as children are ripped from the arms of parents or by being scooped up as they individually move with hordes of people who march north with two basic objectives:  safety and a decent life.  These children are thereafter confined so often in conditions not fit for human habitation.

Not quite so dramatic, but equally troubling, is the situation of a young woman I know who missed the dreamer cut-off by a matter of days and now her remarkable gifts remain dormant, a waste of talent.  Like so many others, she is a victim of her parents’ desire for a better life.  She came with them as a child, all the family simply looking for an escape from poverty and degradation.

It has been told time and again that those seeking asylum, those seeking refuge from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico are driven by conditions that are seemingly hopeless – rife with poverty, lawlessness, violence, lack of education and honest jobs.  If one probes down to the root cause one discovers drugs and the insatiable appetite of Americans, Canadians and Western Europeans for these drugs which continue to feed the crisis and spur the inevitable march northward.

 At the expense of over-simplification, the current response to the immediate problem has a broad two-fold solution.

  1. The immediate situation of families and children at the border requires a humanitarian response.  We are compelled to implement national and international law, that as laborious and painstaking and expensive as it is, will result in treating with respect and dignity these brothers and sisters knocking at our door.  Who can turn away kin when they come in desperation 
  2. The secondary response involves an initiative similar to the Marshall Plan after World War II.  It will entail a massive investment to rebuild the broken cities and communities of Latin America that will entice the residents to stay home enjoying their culture and civilization which they truly prefer.  Essential to this resolution is addressing the consumption and production of deadly drugs.  The question is:  Do we have the motivation to build the bridges necessary to achieve these ends?

Pope Francis, as he has consistently done, painted a broader picture of the migrant crisis in his message for the World Day for Migrants and Refugees 2019 entitled:  “It is not just about migrants.”

The Holy Father insists that when we show concern for the migrant, the refugee, those seeking asylum, “we also show concern for ourselves, for everyone; in taking care of them, we all grow; in listening to them, we also give voice to a part of ourselves that we may keep hidden because it is not well regarded nowadays.”

From an expanded perspective, Pope Francis asserts that today’s challenge is not only about migrants, “but also all of us, and about the present and future of the human family.”

The Pope contends that through the migrants “the Lord is calling us to conversion, to be free from exclusivity, indifference and the throwaway culture.  Through them, the Lord invites us to embrace fully our Christian life and to contribute, each according to his or her proper vocation, to the building up of a world that is more and more in accord with God’s plan.”

From a situation at the border that is enmeshed with human tragedy and which from a moral viewpoint we need to seek reversal of in the immediate moment, there also emerges a vision.  It points the way to new hope.  In confronting this existential mess with the compassion that deeply resides in all of us, might we also activate the  moral compass on which America has been built to reemerge?

 Here is a link to the full message of Pope Francis, "It's not just about migrants."


Bishop Pates

Since his installation on May 29, 2008, Bishop Pates' priorities have been to build up an inviting vocation culture, reach out to newcomers and the Spanish-speaking community, educate and experience evangelization, and to engage youth and young adults as vibrant and valued members of the faith community.