Mistreatment of migrants in El Paso, Texas is a 'travesty' says Catholic Extension

(Photo: REUTERS / Lucy Nicholson)Allisen Stephens, 4, holds a sign at a vigil in support of refugee children and their families in Murrieta, California July 9, 2014. Murrieta has been at the heart of an immigration debate over where to hold and process the surge of illegal migrants crossing the border from Mexico in recent months. The sign reads, "My home is your home."

The treatment of migrants entering the United States is a travesty of justice and does not represent what Lady Liberty stands for.

That is the view of the group Catholic Extension referring to the iconic Statute of Liberty which symbolizes the freedom experienced by generations of migrants who entered the United States in New York.

Catholic Extension said Dec. 28 that in the last few days, the U.S. government has given a new interpretation to the meaning of the inscription on the Statue of Liberty for migrants entering the United States, seeking legal asylum under U.S. law.

After being held for days in detention with little to eat or drink and insufficient medical attention, these people are abandoned in the middle of the night on the streets of El Paso, said the Catholic group.

"Over Christmas, hundreds of people, who entered the United States through legal channels, were transported to the middle of the city and released to fend for themselves—exhausted, hungry, penniless, homeless and without support.

"This treatment is a travesty and does not represent what Lady Liberty stands for," said Catholic Extension.

The statement comes as the policy of the administration of President Donald Trump comes under scrutiny in the United States and the world during a shutdown of U.S. federal government offices over an obsession with a wall.

El Paso is in the western corner of Texas standing on the Rio Grande across the Mexico–United States border from Ciudad Juárez, the most populous city in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.

The Guardian reported Dec. 27 that busloads of asylum seekers dumped at a Greyhound station near the border in El Paso, over Christmas leave volunteers and shelters scrambling.

Catholic Extension expressed thanks that in the hour of need "another 'lady' has stepped in to help: "Holy Mother Church."

The statement noted that Catholic Extension has long supported Catholic ministries at the border, including those in the Diocese of El Paso along with other churches working with people on the move.

These are working around full time to welcome and offer hospitality to migrants by providing food, shelter, comfort, and advocacy.

"Now more than ever, with record numbers of people coming, these ministries are critical," said the statement.

Many of these people arrive with their families, having traveled for weeks with young children in tow, sometimes carrying them along the way. When they arrive, they need us. They need us, the Church, to affirm their humanity and ours.

"Today more than 500 people are expected to be released in El Paso, making it the largest single-day release to date," said Catholic Extension.


It urged people to greet those released in the spirit of Lady Liberty's message:

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

In this Christmas season, Catholic Extension said it should not be forgotten that all people personally know at least one migrant family fleeing violence.

It said, "The Holy Family. The Christ child fled to Egypt with his parents to escape the violence of King Herod, and we have our opportunity today to help Christ, who we encounter in the faces of the poor and vulnerable asylum-seekers."

On Dec. 24 , a UN expert expressed his deep concern about the death of a seven-year-old Guatemalan migrant girl while she was in the custody of immigration authorities in the US.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe González Morales, called for a thorough investigation into how Jakelin Ameí Caal died.

He said that the United States should stop detaining children based on their migratory status.

Although there have been different versions on the sequence of events and the health status of Jakelin, it is not disputed that the girl died in custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, after crossing the border between Mexico and the United States with her father and a larger group of migrants.

"The US authorities must ensure that an in-depth, independent investigation of the death of Jakelin Ameí Caal is conducted," the UN expert said.

"Access to justice for her relatives should be granted, including but not limited to having legal representation in the proceedings in a language they understand well," he noted.

Redress to her family should be provided and if any officials are found responsible they should be held accountable.

he government should also address failings within the immigration system, and specifically within the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agency, to prevent similar situations.

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