Bishop Addresses US Congress: “We Have a Moral Obligation to Help Central American Children”

The Comboni Missionaries’ exposure to conflict areas in Central America, as reported in Friday’s article, confronts them with the rising problem of child trafficking from Central America to the United States.

The northern triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras in Central America have been seeing a humanitarian outflow driven by organised crime. Nearly 40,000 unaccompanied children and an equal number of mothers with children arrived in the United States since October 2014, driven by the false promises of human traffickers and organised criminals.

The US Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee recently received evidence on this pressing matter. Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, gave testimony on behalf of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and in his capacity as a member of the board of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), urging that: “The United States has a moral obligation to protect unaccompanied children and families from persecution in Central America.”

He added: “If we do not respond justly and humanely to this challenge in our own backyard, then we will relinquish our moral leadership and moral influence globally”.

Bishop Seitz pointed to the human consequences of US policies which are designed to deter migration from the region. One of these is US support for Mexican interdiction efforts, in which children and families are intercepted in Mexico and sent back to danger – in violation of international law.

Bishop Seitz recommended ending these interdictions and instead introducing a regional system which would screen children and families for asylum in Mexico and other parts of Central America. He called for Congress to approve and increase a $1 billion aid package proposed by the administration. “If we export enforcement,” Bishop Seitz said, “we also must export protection”.

Bishop Seitz recalled the words of Pope Francis before Congress in September when he invoked the golden rule in guiding our nation’s actions toward those seeking safety in our land. Quoting the Holy Father, Bishop Seitz repeated to the committee:

“The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.”

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