Friday, March 29, 2024

My Good Friday Reflections on Texas Bishop Slams Greg Abbott, Says Christians Have 'Duty to Resist'

The humanitarian crisis happening before our eyes along the U.S.-Mexico border is anguishing. Yes, there are a lot of people coming. No, they are not invaders "attacking" our country. Immigration scholarship always points to "push" and "pull" factors that motivate migration.

Push mechanisms can be significant, including threats to well-being or livelihood, and the impetus to survive difficult conditions and circumstances that individuals and families face back home, be they political, economic, or related to climate change, including factors that turn many families into "climate refugees." 

Pull factors include a need and desire to be with family living in the U.S., the pursuit of opportunities not available in the homeland, as well as work opportunities. Many seek asylum, including safe harbor fleeing violence and the pursuit of religious freedom. The lion's share would rather stay at home were this a viable option.

In virtually all instances, regardless, the treacherous journey into the U.S. is a significant hardship and our Christian values as a nation would seem to dictate mercy, tolerance, and respect for the dignity of all migrants.

After all, the Bible in Exodus 22:21 says "Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. Considering that today is Good Friday should not Galatians 3:28 have special meaning? "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

I'm not Catholic but nevertheless side with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on this one. Governor Abbott's anti-immigrant agenda—which is arguably part and parcel to his anti-diversity campaign, is soulless, cruel, and ungodly. 

When will we as humanity evolve toward a unity consciousness where we observe and honor every single person's right to respect and a life of dignity? Is this not the call for resurrection and renewal that rests at the heart of Easter and Christianity itself? I would certainly hope so. God bless us all.

Peace / paz,

-Angela Valenzuela

Texas Bishop Slams Greg Abbott, Says 

Christians Have 'Duty to Resist'

March 28, 2024 By   | Newsweek

A bishop in El Paso, Texas, a popular U.S. entry point for illegal immigration,

said statewide efforts to villainize migrants is a sad sight and falls on the

shoulders of Governor Greg Abbott.

Abbott has arguably been the most outspoken public official in condemning

the claimed inaction of the federal government surrounding illegal immigra-

tion, which has soared under the Biden administration and hit a record high

during the 2023 fiscal year. He instituted Operation Lone Star in March 2021

to build more border wall and leverage additional National Guard soldiers to

deter migrants from entering unlawfully.

Total border crossings exceeded 988,900 between October and December,

following a record 2.4 million migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border

in fiscal 2023—up from about 1.7 million in 2021.

Texas officials like Abbott are trying to take their own action without federal

intervention, waiting to see if it can enforce its own immigration laws, including

arrests and deportation through legislation known as Senate Bill 4 (S.B. 4), which

was approved last year in an 88-4 vote.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott makes an announcement on the future of the space industry in Texas,

at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston on March 26. Abbott is receiving criticism from local clergy

for his migrant policies.

"You have seen the Humvees and the concertina wire and the national guardsmen on the television," Bishop Mark Seitz of the Diocese of El Paso said during a March 18 lecture at Fairfield University, a Jesuit institution in Connecticut, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

Seitz called Texas officials' efforts "transparently political" and part of a "broader, brutal, historical project in Texas to criminalize and police people who migrate."

"People of faith have a duty to resist these racist projects," he added.

Seitz is the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Office of Migration, which sets broad policies and direction for the church's work in areas including advocacy, education, refugee resettlement, and providing specialized services to at-risk and vulnerable populations including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied minors.

The Diocese of El Paso was instituted on March 3, 1914, and covers roughly 26,700 square miles including nine Texas counties, 56 parishes, 18 missions and a Catholic population of 686,000.

Newsweek reached out to Abbott, the diocese and the USCCB via email for comment.

Abbott and other Texas officials received bad news on Wednesday, when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Texas' request to allow S.B. 4 to go into effect while the court considers its legality. It is being praised by civil rights groups as a victory in what has become a contentious court battle that has extended to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chief Judge Priscilla Richman wrote in the ruling that "for nearly 150 years, the Supreme Court has held that the power to control immigration—the entry, admission, and removal of noncitizens—is exclusively a federal power."

The ruling allows a lower-court decision to remain in place. The Fifth Circuit will hear arguments on April 3 in New Orleans about whether the injunction should be upheld.

"The court did the right thing in preventing the implementation of S.B. 4," El Paso County attorney Jo Anne Bernal said in a statement shared with Newsweek. "We will continue seeking a court decision permanently enjoining this law that has already caused so much fear and divisiveness in our community."

Seitz also reportedly rebuked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for his office's efforts to defund Annunciation House, a decades-old Catholic migrant shelter in El Paso that was alleged by the AG to have facilitated illegal entry to the United States, harboring illegal migrants, human smuggling, and operating a stash house.

This month, a district court judge in Texas said Paxton's efforts were presented "without regard to due process or fair play."

"The attack on Annunciation House represents an escalation in Texas' efforts in recent years to militarize the border and to enact legislation criminalizing migration and people who migrate," Seitz said.

The bishop told Crux, an online newspaper that focuses on news related to the Catholic Church, that the hypothetical situation of Texas officials deporting migrants without properly allowing for the asylum process to play out "saddens" him.

"I'm very disappointed in the narrative that is being promoted to this day that people who are fleeing to our border are a threat to us in the first place," Seitz said. "It's just a tremendous misunderstanding of what's happening."

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