Bishops urge Catholics to reach out to immigrants —
September 21, 2018

Bishops urge Catholics to reach out to immigrants

By Catholic Spirit Staff

Bishop Robert McElroy and a crowd of people sing to those on the Tijuana side of the U.S.-Mexico border fence. (Hayne Palmour IV / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Trump administration’s decision to separate, and later to reunite, children from their immigrant parents at the nation’s border was controversial to say the least.

Catholics are free to debate politics, but there is no wiggle room on upholding the dignity of the human person, said Austin Diocese Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Garcia during a July 9 Mass as the diocesan Pastoral Center. During the Mass, the bishop blessed a delegation of nine Catholic Charities and diocesan employees traveling to assist at the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley’s Humanitarian Respite Center. The center has been inundated with immigrant families to welcome, donations to process and volunteers to manage.

Bishop Garcia
Bishop Daniel Garcia (Shelley Metcalf / Diocese of Austin)

“The dignity of the human person should never be obscured by any law, or government or policy,” Bishop Garcia said. “I don’t care what affiliation you are. I don’t care where you are from. It’s unconscionable what we have done to children. We can’t change the system. We, as brothers and sisters in this country, a beautiful and wonderful country, we have to work through the system. But what we can do is to offer an intimate human touch to those men, women and children who find themselves caught in this web.”

Bishop Garcia posed the question, what would Jesus do?

“I think what he would do is, he would be at the top of the hill of [the] border region and he would bow his head and cry,” he said.

Certainly many tears are shed each day at the respite center where families recently released from immigration detention centers go to get a hot shower, warm meal, clothing and necessities before continuing their journey across the U.S. to be reunited with their children and families; however, the staff of four is overwhelmed with an average of 250 individuals coming through the door each day, said Sara Ramirez, the executive director of Catholic Charities of Central Texas.
Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley asked their counterparts in other dioceses to come and work at the center to give the Rio Grande Valley staff a much-needed break. Catholic Charities of Central Texas was quick to answer the call. Austin area staff traveled to Brownsville July 10 to work there for eight days, Ramirez said.

“Even if I can’t take away their problems and their situation, and the concern that they have looking to their future, what I can do is say to them, ‘You know what? You are loved. We care,’” he said.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, led a delegation of bishops to the border communities in the Brownsville-McAllen area July 1 and 2.

Cardinal DiNardo, along with Auxiliary Bishop Robert J. Brennan of Rockville Centre, New York, and Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania, spoke with many of the immigrants, addressing topics such as why they left home or simply asking the migrants where they were headed and how they were doing. The bishops shared a meal with newly arrived immigrants to the U.S. at a Catholic Charities center and visited the controversial facilities where migrant children and teens have gotten their first taste of the U.S. –– in detention –– while temporarily separated from family.

In a July 2 interview with Catholic News Service, Cardinal DiNardo said he hoped the bishops’ visit to the border “let all Catholics in our country know that we welcome immigrants. … You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue and the church stands with those at the margins.

Catholic News Service contributed to parts of this story.

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