BY ISN STAFF | October 16, 2019
In the face of increased hate rhetoric, violence and the ongoing militarization of Latinx communities, a group of Catholic Latinx organizers, labor leaders, theologians, and activists organized a national pilgrimage to the border, teach-in, and public action, held October 11th-13th in El Paso, Texas.
The gathering, The Teach-In 2019: Jornada por la Justicia, responded to the inhumane treatment of migrants and refugees at the border and the August massacre of 22 Latinx individuals in the border community. The U.S.-Mexico border has also been the site of abhorrent treatment of immigrants, including cruel conditions in detention facilities, the separation of families, and the Remain in Mexico policy, which has trapped asylum seekers in Mexico.
“Our Catholic faith demands we be prophetic in times of oppression, racism, and violence. We cannot stand idle in the face of white supremacy, demonstrated in the policies set forth by this administration,” said the leaders of the newly-formed coalition. “We know that the mass detention of our people at the border is the same mass incarceration that is happening to our Black sisters and brothers. This is targeted mass criminalization of communities of color and we need to fight for our liberation and stand in solidarity with other communities of color.”
“It was refreshing to be in a city that was majority brown. It was beautiful to be in a space where the panelists were all Latinx and my last name was pronounced correctly,” said attendee Melissa Cedillo, a graduate of Loyola Marymount University and a current student at Harvard Divinity School. “After the massacre in El Paso, being at the teach-in provided my hope to move forward.”“For the first time in my life, I was in a space where I was in the majority,” shared José Arnulfo Cabrera, ISN’s director of education and advocacy for migration. “The conversations weren’t spent helping others understand the realities of being Méxican-American or tiptoeing around harsh realities. We talked about this and went deeper because we came from a mutual starting point.”
During the Teach-In closing mass, Bishop Mark J. Seitz from the Diocese of El Paso released a pastoral letter, Night Will Be No More, responding to racism, xenophobia, hatred, and white supremacy, both in the borderland community and across the nation, particularly as witnessed in the August 3, 2019 massacre at a Walmart in El Paso.
“Bishop Seitz’s letter reminded us that some of our Church’s leaders are doing their part in fighting against the hatred and injustice in this country,” said Cabrera.Nearly 400 Catholics mobilized during the weekend’s events on October 12 for a binational nonviolent action in El Paso, TX and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. In the context of routine rejection by U.S. authorities at the bridge, fifteen Mexican asylum seekers, including three families and children as young as one year old, were successfully accompanied across the U.S. border.
A group of hundreds entered Juarez for an encounter with migrants living in tents near the bridge and to hear from Catholic legal advisors. The advisors conveyed that such Mexicans have been regularly turned back into Mexico even though they are fleeing that country, and thus, violating their right to asylum.
Crossing back into the U.S., the group stopped with a banner of Our Lady Guadalupe near the center where asylum seekers have been routinely denied their rights, blessing the bridge with holy water.
After the blessing, 10 Catholic leaders from the various coalitions accompanied the Mexican asylum seekers to the center of the bridge as they presented themselves for asylum. After a tense 30-minute stand-off with uncertainty, posturing, and solidarity, the asylum seekers were justly allowed to exercise their right to asylum and entered into the U.S.
Meanwhile, hundreds more joined a Jericho walk through El Paso, praying at sites of transformation and hope for the borderland community, led by Cabrera. “The Jericho walk allowed us to put what we learned during the Teach-In into action,” he said.
Catholic faith communities from throughout the United States, including the D.C. Catholic Coalition, who organized Catholic Days of Action in Washington, D.C., and Newark, NJ earlier in 2019, joined in the weekend’s workshops, trainings, strategy sessions, and public action.