Excerpts from Strangers No Longer:
Together on the Journey of Hope

The following excerpts are from Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope, a statement issued jointly by the Catholic Bishops of Mexico and the United States.

Why We Speak

  • We speak as two Episcopal conferences but as one Church, united in the view that migration is necessary and beneficial. At the same time, some aspects of the migrant experience are far from the vision of the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed: many persons who seek to migrate are suffering, and, in some cases, dying; human rights are abused; families are kept apart; and racist and xenophobic attitudes remain. (Page 1, Paragraph 2)  
  • As pastors to more than . sixty-five million U.S. Catholics, we witness the human consequences of migration in the life of society every day. We witness the vulnerability of our people involved in all sides of the migration phenomenon, including families devastated by the loss of loved ones....and children left alone when parents are removed from them. (Page 1-2, Paragraph 4)  
  • Migrants and immigrants are in our parishes and in our communities. In both our countries, we see much injustice and violence against them and much suffering and despair among them because civil and church structures are still inadequate to accommodate their needs. (Page 2, Paragraph 5)

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To Whom We Speak

  • We speak to migrants who are forced to leave their lands to provide for their families or to escape persecution. We stand in solidarity with you. We commit ourselves to your pastoral care and to work towards changes in church and societal structures that impede your exercising your dignity and living as children of God. (Page 3, Paragraph 9)  
  • We speak to public officials in both nations, from those who hold the highest offices to those who encounter the migrant on a daily basis. We thank our nations presidents for the dialogue they have begun in an effort to humanize the migration phenomenon. (Page 3, Paragraph 10) We ask our presidents to continue negotiations on migration issues to achieve a system of migration between the two countries that is more generous, just, and humane. (Page 48, Paragraph 104)  
  • Finally, we speak to the peoples of the United States and Mexico. Our two nations are more interdependent than ever before in our history, sharing cultural and social values, common interests, and hopes for the future. Our nations have a singular opportunity to act as true neighbors and to work together to build a more just and generous immigration system. (Page 3, Paragraph 12)

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Catholic Social Teachings

  • All persons have the right to find in their own countries the economic, political, and social opportunities to live in dignity and achieve a full life through the use of their God-given gifts. In this context, work that provides a just, living wage is a basic human need. (Page 15, Paragraph 34)  
  • The Church recognizes the right of sovereign nations to control their territories but rejects such control when it is exerted merely for the purpose of acquiring additional wealth. More powerful economic nations, which have the ability to protect and feed their residents, have a stronger obligation to accommodate migration flows. (Page 15, Paragraph 36)  
  • The Church recognizes that all goods of the earth belong to all people. When persons cannot find employment in their country of origin to support themselves and their families, they have a right to find work elsewhere in order to survive. Sovereign nations should provide ways to accommodate this right. (Page 15, Paragraph 35)  
  • Those who flee wars and persecution should be protected by the global community. This requires, at a minimum, that migrants have a right to claim refugee status without incarceration and to have their claims fully considered by a competent authority. (Page 16, Paragraph 37)  
  • Regardless of their legal status, migrants, like all persons, possess inherent human dignity which should be respected. Government policies that respect the basic human rights of the undocumented are necessary. (Page 16, Paragraph 38)

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Policy Recommendations

Globalization and Economic Development

  • Now is the time for both the United States and Mexico to confront the reality of globalization and to work toward the globalization of solidarity. Both governments have recognized the integration of economic interests through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It is now time to harmonize policies on the movement of people, particularly in a way that respects the human dignity of the migrant and recognizes the social consequences of globalization. (Page 31, Paragraph 57)  
  • The creation of employment opportunities in Mexico would help to reduce poverty and would mitigate the incentive for many migrants to look for employment in the United States. The implementation of economic policies in Mexico that create living wage jobs is vital, especially for citizens without advanced skills. (Page 32, Paragraph 61)

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Family-Based Immigration

  • The U.S. legal immigration system places per-country limits on visas for family members of U.S. legal permanent residents from Mexico. Spouses and parents thus face a difficult decision: either honor their moral commitment to family and migrate to the United States without documentation, or wait in the system and face indefinite separation from loved ones. This is an unacceptable choice, and a policy which encourages undocumented migration. A new framework must be established that will give Mexican families more opportunities to legally reunited with their loved ones in the United States. (Page 33-34, Paragraphs 65-66)

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Legalization of the Undocumented

  • A broad legalization program of the undocumented would benefit not only the migrants but also both nations. Legalization represents sound public policy and should be featured in any migration agreement between the United States and Mexico. In order to ensure fairness for all nationalities, the U.S. Congress should enact a legalization program for immigrants regardless of their country of origin. (Page 35, Paragraphs 69-70)

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Employment-Based Immigration

  • In order to prevent future abuse of workers, any new temporary worker program must afford Mexican and other foreign workers wage levels and employment benefits that are sufficient to support a family in dignity; must include worker protections and job portability that U.S. workers have; must allow for family unity; must employ labor-market tests to ensure that U.S. workers are protected; and must grant workers the ability to move easily and securely between the United States and their homelands. It must employ strong enforcement mechanisms to protect worker's rights and give workers the option to become lawful permanent residents after a specific amount of time. Reform in worker programs must be coupled with a broad-based legalization program. (Page 36-37, Paragraphs 72, 75)

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Enforcement Policies

  • Alarmingly, migrants often are treated as criminals by civil enforcement authorities. Misperceptions and xenophobic and racist attitudes in both the United States and Mexico contribute to an atmosphere in which undocumented persons are discriminated against and abused. Reports of physical abuse of migrants by U.S. Border Patrol agents, the Mexican authorities and, in some cases, U.S. and Mexican residents, are all too frequent, including the use of excessive force and the shackling of migrants = hands and feet. (Page 39, Paragraph 80)  
  • In order to address these excesses, both governments must create training mechanisms that instruct enforcement agents in the use of appropriate tactics for enforcing immigration law. We urge the U.S. and Mexican governments to include human rights curricula in their training regimens so that immigration enforcement personnel are more sensitive to the handling of undocumented migrants. (Page 41, Para. 85)  
  • We urge both the U.S. and Mexican enforcement authorities to abandon the type of strategies that give rise to smuggling operations and migrant deaths. Care should be taken not to push migrants to routes in which their lives may be in danger. We also urge more concerted efforts to root out smuggling enterprises at their source using a wide range of intelligence and investigative tactics. (Page 43, Paragraph 89)

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Due Process

  • In 1996, the U.S. Congress eviscerated due process rights for migrants with the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), which authorizes the detention and deportation of migrants for relatively minor offenses, even after they have served their sentences. We urge the U.S. Congress to revisit this law and to make appropriate changes consistent with due process rights. We also urge the Mexican government to honor the right to due process for all those who are in the country, specifically documented and undocumented migrants who do not now enjoy due process and who may be removed from the country for arbitrary reasons. (Page 44, Paragraphs 92-93)

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Protection of Asylum Seekers

  • We restate our long-held position that asylum seekers and refugees should have access to qualified adjudicators who will objectively consider their pleas. We urge both countries to take a leadership role in the Regional Conference on Migration (Puebla Process) and to work with our Central American neighbors to ensure that asylum seekers and refugees throughout our hemisphere have access to appropriate due process protections consistent with international law. (Page 46, Paragraph 99)

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Consequences of September 11

  • The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, have placed national security concerns at the forefront of the migration debate and have added another dimension to the migration relationship between the United States and Mexico. We urge both nations to cooperate in this area, but not to enact joint policies that undermine human rights, reduce legal immigration, or deny asylum seekers opportunities for protection. (Page 46, Paragraph 100)

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Pastoral Recommendations

  • The Church should encourage these broad-based efforts to provide both a comprehensive network of social services and advocacy for migrant families. A special call is issued for lawyers in both our countries to assist individuals and families in navigating the arduous immigration process and to defend the rights of migrants, especially those in detention. (Page 22, Paragraph 44)  
  • Ideally, local parishes should ensure that sacramental preparation is available to people on the move, making special provisions for them given their transitory lives of following work wherever it leads. (Page 23, Paragraph 47)  
  • Careful and generous cooperation between dioceses is important to provide priests and religious who are suited for this important ministry. Guidelines for their training and reception by the host diocese must be developed jointly with the diocese that sends them. (Page 25, Paragraph 50)

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Conclusion

  • We recognize the phenomenon of migration as an authentic sign of the times. We see it in both our countries through the suffering of those who have been forced to become migrants for many reasons. To such a sign we must respond in common and creative ways so that we may strengthen the faith, hope, and charity of migrants and all the people of God. (Page 47, Paragraph 102)  
  • We ask our presidents to continue negotiations on migration issues to achieve a system of migration between the two countries that is more generous, just, and humane. We call for legislatures of our two countries to effect a conscientious revision of the immigration laws and to establish a binational system that accepts migration flows, guaranteeing the dignity and human rights of the migrant. (Page 48, Paragraph 104)  
  • We stand in solidarity with you, our migrant brothers and sisters, and we will continue to advocate on your behalf for just and fair migration policies. We commit ourselves to animate communities of Christ's disciples on both sides of the border to accompany you and your journey so that yours will truly be a journey of hope, not of despair, and so that, at the point of arrival, you will experience that you are strangers no longer and instead members of God's household. (Page 49, Paragraph 106)

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June 09, 2005