Amid rising deaths at the US/Mexico Border, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns Director Susan Gunn offered a comment on the dangerous anti-immigration policies. Read the full press release as a PDF.
January 25, 2024
Catholic Border Groups Denounce Dangerous Anti-Immigration Policies Amid Increase in Border Deaths
U.S.-MEXICO BORDER – Catholic border organizations and immigration advocates denounce Governor Abbott’s anti-immigration policies in Texas and the seizure of Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, as well as his hateful rhetoric suggesting shooting migrants who attempt to cross the border and his continued claims of an invasion at our border. We call on the Biden administration to investigate and contest Operation Lone Star. This operation, purportedly aimed at enhancing border security, has proven to be fatally flawed, wasteful and dangerous.
The year 2023 marked the deadliest in history for border communities in Texas, with Operation Lone Star exacerbating the situation. Catholic border advocates are deeply concerned about the adverse impact of Texas’ anti-immigration legislation, leading to harassment by state law enforcement officials of border residents, deadly high-speed chases, the alarming profiling of Black, Brown, and Indigenous populations, and the increase in deaths at the border, including those of 33-year-old Victerma de la Sancha Cerros, 10-year-old Yorlei Rubi, and 8-year-old Jonathan Agustín Briones de la Sancha, who died recently after Texas troopers took control of Shelby Park in Eagle Pass.
Operation Lone Star has created an environment fraught with racial and ethnic bias, compromising the safety and well-being of those seeking refuge. Catholic border advocates urgently petition the Biden administration to take immediate action to address these grave concerns.
We urge the federal government to challenge Texas’ anti-immigration policies and call for a comprehensive review of similar legislation in Congress. It is imperative to replace these harmful measures with policies that foster a more humane, orderly, and welcoming system at the border–one that upholds the Catholic principle of welcoming the stranger and our nation’s values of justice, equality, and compassion. Catholic border advocates stand resolute in upholding a fair and just approach to immigration that respects the dignity and rights of all individuals.
“Rather than addressing the pressing needs of Texans, Governor Abbott persists in advocating for harmful immigration policies that disproportionately impact individuals from seeking refuge and communities at the border. Initiatives like Operation Lone Star not only create confusion but would also transform border communities into places of conflict,” said Dylan Corbett, Executive Director of the Hope Border Institute. “There’s a politics of fear and exclusion that unfortunately are being pushed in this country right now, and it’s been deliberately provoked and inflamed by our elected leaders for cheap political gain. This must stop. We call on the federal government to act quickly to stop Operation Lone Star.”
“We mourn the loss of life at the U.S.-Mexico border as individuals and families attempt to find safety in the U.S.,” said Joan Rosenhauer, President of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.“Restrictive immigration and asylum policies result in a higher risk of harm for people seeking safety, while doing little to secure our borders. We urge Governor Abbott and the state of Texas to coordinate efforts with the federal government to end the needless suffering and death occurring at our border, and instead work together to develop pathways that lead to security, stability, and strengthened communities.”
“Governor Abbott claims to be Catholic,” said Sister Marie Lucey, OSF, Associate Director of Francisan Action Network, “but his actions are contrary to the Gospel of Jesus, Catholic Social Teaching, and the call of Pope Francis for compassionate justice for migrants and refugees. The governor’s extreme restrictions, like Operation Lone Star, result in conflicts at the border, as well as suffering for people seeking safety in this country. With other Catholic organizations, FAN calls on our Catholic President to end a Catholic governor’s cruel Operation Lone Star.”
“The State of Texas, under the leadership of Governor Abbott, is undertaking more and more dangerous tactics at every turn with no sign of letting up,” said Melissa Lopez, Executive Director of Estrella del Paso, formerly Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services. “The State's assault on migrants has resulted in far too many deaths, including the death of a mother and her two young children who drowned in the Rio Grande amid Gov. Abbott’s orders, preventing border agents from responding. With the passage of SB4, the State of Texas continues its assault on people of color. The law is unconstitutional, inhumane, and an overly broad encroachment of federal immigration authority. The enforcement of this law will come at the expense of human dignity and human rights. Gov. Abbott's recent statement that he would consider shooting people crossing the border does not represent us as Texans. We believe all people belong and that we should follow the biblical mandate to welcome the stranger. Violence should never be the answer in the face of urgent humanitarian need.”
“If Texas state law known as SB4 goes into effect in March, there could be the chaos about which Governor Abbott often warns,” said Susan Gunn, Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns. “If, as the law implies, Texas law enforcement authorities are given the power to stop, arrest and jail migrants on state-level illegal entry charges, and state judges are given the power to issue de facto deportation orders against suspected violators of the law, in a state where more than 40 percent of the residents are Hispanic, we will have chaos. Texas policies under Governor Abbott already provoke migrant deaths by using razor wires and barriers in the rivers and prohibiting border patrol from rescuing migrants in distress. Criminalizing acts of compassion meant to save lives, and using our police and courts as weapons to target people, is unjust and inhumane. Our faith and our shared humanity demands that we do better."
Photo of US/Mexico border by Greg Bulla via Unsplash.