BY ISN STAFF | June 27, 2019 

“The cry of a father and his baby daughter who drowned crossing the Rio Grande reaches heaven itself. This unspeakable consequence of a failed immigration system, together with growing reports of inhumane conditions for children in the custody of the federal government at the border, shock the conscience, and demand immediate action.” [United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, June 26, 2019]

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, have released a joint statement calling on the federal government to hear the cry of the poor and vulnerable after the deaths of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his 23-month old daughter Valeria as they attempted to cross the Rio Grande River in hopes of seeking asylum in the U.S. [See full statement below.]

In a separate statement, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA (JRS/USA) has called for the safety and security of asylum seekers. “Witnessing this at our own border shines a light on the risks that millions of displaced persons are forced to take each day and the dire outcome when appropriate protection mechanisms are not in place,” reads the statement.

“We stand in solidarity with all refugees and migrants who are forced to flee their homelands in search of safety and security. No mother or father would risk the death of their children if not compelled by untenable conditions in their country of origin” said Joan Rosenhauer, Executive Director, JRS/USA. JRS/USA also released a statement earlier this week urging compassionate treatment of children at U.S. immigration detention centers.

Read the full statement from the USCCB: 

June 26, 2019—“We join with our Holy Father Pope Francis in immense sadness, having seen the horrific images of Oscar Martinez and his daughter Angie Valeria who drowned in the Rio Grande Valley while attempting to flee persecution and enter the United States. This image cries to heaven for justice. This image silences politics. Who can look on this picture and not see the results of the failures of all of us to find a humane and just solution to the immigration crisis? Sadly, this picture shows the daily plight of our brothers and sisters.  Not only does their cry reach heaven. It reaches us.  And it must now reach our federal government.

All people, regardless of their country of origin or legal status, are made in the image of God and should be treated with dignity and respect.  Recent reports of overcrowded and unsanitary conditions are appalling and unacceptable for any person in U.S.  custody, but particularly for children, who are uniquely vulnerable.  Such conditions cannot be used as tools of deterrence.  We can and must remain a country that provides refuge for children and families fleeing violence, persecution, and acute poverty.

Congress has a duty to provide additional funding to address the needs of children in federal custody.  Their supplemental appropriations bill should also increase protections for immigrant children, including heightened standards and oversight for border facilities.  It is possible and necessary to care for the safety of migrant children and the security of our citizens.  By putting aside partisan interests, a nation as great as ours is able to do both.”

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