As most Americans, I was relieved to receive the news that the policy of separating families when they arrive at our southern border would end. It is good to know that this most draconian of punitive measures against those who arrive at our border seeking to preserve their lives and the lives of their children will cease.
Even so, incarcerating families in prison camps is an unacceptable option, which will cause irreparable harm to children. We should also remember that family separation occurs every time a family is torn apart by deportation, whether here at the border or in other parts of the country.
Vigilance will be needed to ensure that the dignity and human rights of asylum seekers and migrants is always respected, even in the process of careful examination of their claims. It has been found that when migrants have legal representation that the vast majority cooperate with the legal process. This representation should be seen as a necessary part of a just and compassionate nation's response to these brothers and sisters in need.
I remain very concerned at reports that asylum seekers and other legal immigrants may be being turned away at official places of entry in El Paso. This is not an acceptable response and may constitute a violation of the law. I call on immigration officials and our elected leaders to ensure that our ports of entry remain as beacons of safety for those pursuing asylum claims.
The Church has always taught that national borders serve a useful purpose and that the orderly passage across borders is an important goal. However, when people are fleeing for their lives they don't have the luxury to wait for years in their home country for a visa to arrive. Asylum laws were developed to respond to this need. These laws also need to be updated to respond to the present situations of violence and desperation that are driving people to leave their homes.
At the end of the day, we will be judged as individuals, as El Pasoans and as a nation by the degree to which we recognize the presence of God in the poor and vulnerable knocking on our door looking for safety and refuge. Let us not fail this basic moral test.
Most Reverend Mark J. Seitz, D.D.
Bishop of El Paso