Catholic Bishop Mark Joseph Seitz of El Paso TX is to provide testimony on June 25 at a hearing of the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives about the current influx of unaccompanied minors and other illegal immigrants who are overwhelming immigration authorities along the shared U.S./Mexico border. Bishop Seitz plans to provide photographs and video in addition to his testimony in an effort to explain the dangers faced by Central American migrants passing through Mexico on their way to the U.S.
According to the Fides Agency, Bishop Seitz hopes that members of Congress will "see that we are dealing with human faces, lives, instead of thinking only about how to put a bad light on the opposition party." In November 2013, Bishop Seitz went to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He also visited a hostel for migrant children in Tapachula, a city in the Mexican state of Chiapas that borders upon Guatemala. There he spoke with refugees about the situation in their countries of origin.
"In Mexico I spoke with two boys from San Pedro Sula (Honduras) who told me that they fled from their homes because they were threatened with death if they had not joined the gang in their neighborhood. These boys, but there are also children of 5 years of age, do not leave their communities for new adventures, but flee wars in their countries. A war that their governments is losing when they fail to protect their people."
The Bishop of El Paso spoke to the plight of hundreds of immigrant children who have crossed into the U.S. and who have now been moved to other places such as El Paso while they wait for resolution for asylum requests and family reunification. "As a Church, we do not see these children as mere numbers or statistics.They are people with a face and a life," concluded the churchman.
According to data released by Texas public officials, so far in 2014 at least 160,000 unauthorized persons have been stopped in the valley of Rio Grande. This figure has already exceeded the number of 154 483 immigrants recorded throughout 2013, according a state government spokesman. According to an official statement, more than half of these people come from countries other than Mexico and 37,000 children are alone or unaccompanied. Currently, government agencies in Texas are spending $1.3 million fighting crime, especially against narcotics trafficking, along the border.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.