The following is the text of a statement by Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, on the immigration situation at the border at El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, that he delivered June 27 before he crossed the Lerdo International Bridge that connects the U.S. and Mexico:
As a Catholic and Christian leader on the border, I am often called to be a doctor of the soul. Standing here at the U.S.-Mexico border, how do we begin to diagnose the soul of our country?
A government and society which view fleeing children and families as threats; a government which treats children in U.S. custody worse than animals; a government and society who turn their backs on pregnant mothers, babies and families and make them wait in Ciudad Juarez without a thought to the crushing consequences on this challenged city. … This government and this society are not well. We suffer from a life-threatening case of hardening of the heart.
In a day when we prefer to think that prejudice and intolerance are problems of the past, we have found a new acceptable group to treat as less than human, to look down upon and to fear. And should they speak another language or are brown or black … well, it is that much more easy to stigmatize them.
Why can’t we put ourselves in their shoes? Because we have decided they are not our neighbors, we have decided that they are aliens and illegals. We think these parents simply have no right to save their children from violence or malnutrition. They have no right to a job or to support their families. They have no right to reunite with family.
For this heart-sick government and society, these people should have stayed home, given into hopelessness and watched helplessly as their children suffer. Would we rather they die on the banks of the Rio Grande than trouble us with their presence?
But we have not suffered the mistreatment meted out to them by those who represent our country. We haven’t really felt their hunger and cold. And it is not our children who will be denied food, water and tenderness tonight. We Americans need our hearts checked. Our hearts have grown too cold and too hard and that bodes ill for the health of our nation.
In the America of today, is there no more Golden Rule? Have we forgotten the lessons of Scripture? Have we forgotten the commandment to love? Have we forgotten God?
But here on the border, he knocks. In the struggle for hope and freedom and family, he knocks. In the lives of Jakelin and Felipe and Oscar and Valeria, he knocks. In our neighbors here today, he knocks. He knocks. He knocks. He knocks.