Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Representing Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, Maryknoll Sisters, and Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Call for Bishops Across Americas to Protect Migrants

Catholic organizations ask leaders of bishops’ conferences in the Americas to work together to protect migrants as deaths at the U.S.-Mexico border triple. This article was published in the July-August 2021 issue of NewsNotes.

More than 160 Catholic organizations throughout the Americas are calling on Catholic bishops in the United States, Mexico, and Central America to work collaboratively to protect migrants and improve life in the communities from which so many are fleeing. 

In a letter dated June 17, the Catholic organizations, including the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, urged the leaders of the Catholic bishops’ conferences in the United States, Mexico, and Central America to “hear the cries of our brothers and sisters on the move and respond with bold leadership.” Noting the promise of a new U.S. Administration to address the root causes of migration the group highlighted three key areas for collective action by the Catholic Church: responding humanely to migration; putting immigrants in the U.S. on a pathway to citizenship; and addressing the underlying conditions that force people to migrate. 

The call to action to Catholic bishops comes as deaths of migrants have tripled at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Heat stroke and dehydration are the main causes of death for migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border undetected by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. While the number of migrants attempting to cross the border dropped in 2020, a new report from The Marshall Project says the number of deaths increased drastically. 

"While the number of encounters at the border fell by half in fiscal year 2020 compared to the previous year, the number of encounters that required a rescue operation doubled to the highest rate in at least a decade. The death rate also nearly doubled during the same period, from 35 to 62 migrants found dead for every 100,000 migrants encountered."

Now, in 2021, the number of deaths of migrants along twelve south Texas counties that border Mexico are much higher than in recent years. “Typically our busiest months are July and August,” says Dr. Corrine Stern, Medical Examiner in Webb County, Texas, “and we’re not even there yet.”

Last year, by this time, 45 migrants had died on the border. This year, that number has tripled to 128. According to Dr. Stern, 30% tested positive for COVID-19, which may have contributed to their deaths.

"The continuation of Title 42, which has made it virtually impossible to cross the border via ports of entry, has pushed migrants into more danger,” Kino Border Institute, a Jesuit-affiliated migrant center in Nogales, Arizona, posted on social media on June 10.

“The ever-increasing militarization of the border has made many migrants more reticent and ill-equipped to call for help in a crisis. It's time to end Title 42. Lives quite literally hang in the balance."

To mark the longest day of the year on June 20, in one of the hottest summers ever in the borderlands, the Tuscan, Arizona-based humanitarian organization No More Deaths, posted on social media, “We mourn the thousands who have lost their lives for simply trying to seek a better life by migrating.”

“These deaths are totally unnecessary and preventable,” No More Deaths declared, “and they are a result of U.S. government policies and actions that purposely use suffering and death in the desert as a weapon.” They ask people to read and share their report on these policies and actions at http://www.thedisappearedreport.org/ 

Faith in action: Tell Pres. Biden to end Title 42: https://bit.ly/3gUojyd