BY CHRIS KERR | October 21, 2015
WASHINGTON— The United States has a moral obligation to protect unaccompanied children and families from persecution in Central America, said Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, in testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, October 21. Bishop Seitz is an advisor to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration and a member of the board of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC).
The humanitarian outflow, driven by organized crime in the northern triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, continues with nearly 40,000 unaccompanied children and an equal number of mothers with children having arrived in the United States in fiscal year 2015.
“If we do not respond justly and humanely to this challenge in our own backyard, then we will relinquish our moral leadership and moral influence globally,” Bishop Seitz said.
Bishop Seitz pointed to the human consequences of U.S. policies that are designed to deter migration from the region, including U.S. support for Mexican interdiction efforts to intercept children and families in Mexico and send them back to danger, a violation of international law.
Bishop Seitz recommended an end to these interdictions and urged the introduction of a regional system which would screen children and families for asylum in Mexico and other parts of the region. He also called for Congress to approve and increase a $1 billion aid package proposed by the Obama Administration.
“If we export enforcement,” Bishop Seitz said, “we also must export protection.”
Bishop Seitz recalled the words of Pope Francis before Congress in September, when he invoked the golden rule in guiding our nation’s actions toward those seeking safety in our land.
Quoting the Holy Father, Bishop Seitz repeated to the committee, “’The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.’”
“Mr. Chairman, I pray that time, and history, will conclude that we honored this rule in meeting this humanitarian challenge,” Bishop Seitz concluded.
Bishop Seitz’ testimony can be found here.
Chris joined the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) as executive director in 2011. He has over fifteen years of experience in social justice advocacy and leadership in Catholic education and ministry. Prior to ISN he served in multiple roles at John Carroll University, including coordinating international immersion experience and social justice education programming as an inaugural co-director of John Carroll’s Arrupe Scholars Program for Social Action. Prior to his time at John Carroll he served as a teacher and administrator at the elementary and secondary levels in Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. Chris speaks regularly at campuses and parishes about social justice education and advocacy, Jesuit mission, and a broad range of social justice issues. He currently serves on the board of directors for Christians for Peace in El Salvador (CRISPAZ). Chris earned a B.A. and M.A. from John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. He and his family reside in Shaker Heights, Ohio.