US & World

Bishop Mark Seitz to speak in Washington D.C.; calls for compassion for immigrants

EL PASO, Texas - The flood of Central American immigrants into southwestern states continues. As the thousands of people grow into tens of thousands, our nation's leaders are calling for action now, including El Paso's own catholic Bishop Mark Seitz.

Seitz announced in a press conference Monday, he'll be traveling to Washington D.C. to speak before the House Judiciary Committee. His message: we must treat this immigration crisis with compassion.

"The migrants are not simply leaving their homes, they are fleeing," Seitz said.

Seitz said he saw the conditions in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador for himself last November.

"We believe the primary reason they are leaving their homes and their families is the pervasive and brutal violence that has become a part of every day life," Seitz said.

Video shows Central Americans attempting to make the dangerous trip through Mexico to the United States, a trip some critics of the administration say, thousands more are willing to make because of lax immigration policies under President Barack Obama.

"When the President of the United States announces to the world amnesty for those who have broken the law -- the consequence is people respond to that," said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

"The first step, I think, would be for the President of the United States to announce 'if you come here illegally, you can't stay. Right now, over radio and television in those Central American countries, they're telling them that they can get here and stay," said Sen. John McCain, R- Arizona.

"The federal government has completely failed its obligation to secure our borders," said Texas Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott.

Those pointing fingers at the President are referring to several administrative changes to immigration enforcement, including a program to allow young immigrants who came to the country before 2007 to avoid deportation and obtain a work permit for two years.

The Obama administration estimates it will catch 90,000 children trying to illegally cross the Mexican border without their parents by the end of the current budget year in September.
Last year, the government returned fewer than 2,000 children to their native countries.

The White House has responded, saying Vice President Joe Biden, while in Central America this week, "will reiterate that unaccompanied children and adults arriving with their children are not eligible to benefit from the passage of immigration reform legislation or from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process."

But Seitz and people like him are saying that we should let them stay.

"They're fleeing a violence within their country that can only be compared to a war," Seitz said.

Seitz said the U.S. has signed off on United Nations conventions regarding aid to people fleeing violence. He said our country should follow the example of Lebanon, which has accepted hundreds of thousands of people fleeing violence in Syria.

But for now, 50,000 children have illegally crossed into the U.S., more than 600 family units into the borderland, and states are running out of places to house them while they Are processed.

"This is an absolute humanitarian catastrophe waiting to happen and I do not understand why there has not been more interest in Washington DC to secure the southern border with Mexico and the United States," said Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Texas state senator and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis is calling on Perry to declare a state of emergency, call an emergency special session of the Texas legislature, and request additional immigration judges immediately.

But Seitz's said we shouldn't fear helping these immigrants.

"This migration challenge which involves the most vulnerable is a test to the moral character of our nation. Let us pray that we do not fail this test," Seitz said.

Seitz speaks before lawmakers on Wednesday. 

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