By David Agren
Catholic News Service
MEXICO CITY (CNS) — The Mexican bishops’ conference criticized U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan to deploy National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border and issued a strong defense of migrants, saying the Catholic Church could not stand by "in the face of suffering by our brother migrants as they seek better conditions by crossing the border to work and contribute to the common good."
The April 7 letter, addressed to people in Mexico and the United States and the presidents of both countries, echoed sentiments of U.S. border bishops by saying the frontier between the two countries "is not a war zone," but rather an area "called to be an example of social connection and joint responsibility."
"The only future possible for our region is the future built with bridges of trust and shared development, not with walls of indignity and violence," said the statement signed by the bishops of 16 northern Mexican dioceses and the conference’s six-member presidential council.
The Mexican bishops’ statement: "For the Dignity of Migrants," followed Trump’s April 4 announcement to deploy troops to the border to thwart the entry of unauthorized migrants.
It also followed series of tweets from Trump criticizing Mexico for not stopping a caravan of Central American migrants from moving northward toward the U.S.-Mexico border.
The bishops called for defending the dignity of migrants, saying "Migrants aren’t criminals, rather they are vulnerable human beings that have the authentic right to personal and community development."
They also took issue with the Mexican government for "not having created enough opportunities for development among our poor and marginalized people," though Mexican migration has diminished over the last decade. But their statement also defended the country against Trump’s disparaging comments.
"The shortcomings that we Mexicans have can’t be used as justification for promoting antagonism among people we call friends and brothers," the bishops said. "It doesn’t go along with human dignity … to build walls that divide us, or implement actions that violate (or cause us violence)."
The day before the Mexican bishops’ statement, eight U.S. Catholic bishops from four border states issued a joint statement expressing their concern about troop placement at the border.
"This is not a war zone, but instead is comprised of many peaceful and law-abiding communities that are also generous in their response to human suffering," the bishops said. The April 6 statement said they recognize the right of nations to control and secure their borders and to respect the rule of law but it also pointed out that current U.S. law allows those who arrive in this country fleeing persecution to "due process as their claims are reviewed."
Seeking refuge from persecution and violence in search of a peaceful life "is not a crime," the bishops said.