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 CNS Story:

BORDER-PASTORAL Sep-13-2013 (610 words) xxxn

Texas-Mexico border bishops plan pastoral letter on family immigration

By Patricia Zapor
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- After a gut-wrenching visit with young children in the El Paso, Texas, area who are in immigration detention, the bishops of the border region of Texas and Mexico have decided to write a joint pastoral letter on how families are harmed by the current immigration system.

San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller told Catholic News Service in a Sept. 12 phone interview that after visiting the children who were brought to meet the bishops at an El Paso parish and learning their stories, the bishops wanted to draw attention to the family effects of the broken immigration system.

He told about meeting a girl of 6 who has been in detention since her parents were deported four years ago. Apparently both her mother and father were killed soon after they were returned to Mexico and their daughter has been a ward of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency ever since, as official systems of two countries have slowly churned to place the girl with another member of her family.

That girl and the other children in ICE custody intensely long to be with their families, he said. "Here in this country are 11 million undocumented people. How many of their children risk losing a parent because they lack documents" and could be deported, he asked.

The pastoral letter to be issued in the next month is intended to "bring some sane, rational understanding" of the many ways families are broken apart by the current immigration system, Archbishop Garcia-Siller said.

In a Sept. 8 statement as the meeting closed, the bishops said the burdens on families divided because of problems with the immigration system particularly concern them.

"At present, those most injured are the thousands of children and young people who find themselves deprived of their parents and other family members," the message announcing plans for a pastoral letter said. "We seek to view the reality of the migration phenomenon from the divine perspective. Just as God had compassion for his people enslaved in Egypt, so now he is moved, and he calls us to compassion and mercy towards our undocumented brothers and sisters. Further, Jesus the good shepherd felt compassion upon seeing the exhausted multitudes. As their current shepherds we want to make our hearts beat in rhythm with theirs."

For years, the bishops of U.S. and Mexican dioceses along the border have met twice a year to discuss issues of mutual concern, heavily focused on immigration-related matters. Archbishop Garcia-Siller said such sessions more than a decade ago led to the first joint pastoral letter of the U.S. and Mexican bishops conferences, "Strangers No Longer: Together on a Journey of Hope."

Archbishop Garcia-Siller said the bishops realize there's a lot of ground to cover -- particularly in Texas -- in changing hearts in favor of supporting comprehensive immigration reform. He said each bishop will determine how to implement the pastoral letter in his own diocese, but each of them will have a plan, whether it includes organized dialogues, radio, television, newspaper or Sunday homilies.

In addition to Archbishop Garcia-Siller, the bishops involved in the September meeting and the planned pastoral letter include: (from Mexico) Archbishop Constancio Miranda Weckmann of Chihuahua, and Bishops Ruy Rendon Leal of Matamoros, Gustavo Rodriguez Vega of Nuevo Laredo, Alonso Gerardo Garza Trevino of Piedras Negras, and Jesus Jose Herrera Quinones of Nuevo Casas Grandes; (from Texas) Bishops Mark J. Seitz, of El Paso, Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Michael D. Pfeifer of San Angelo and James A. Tamayo of Laredo; Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M.; and retired Bishops Raymundo J. Pena of Brownsville and Jose Fernandez of Chihuahua.

END


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