San Salvador, El Salvador – The executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. said she hoped the Biden administration would use the US Vice President’s upcoming trip to Mexico and Guatemala as an opportunity to right historic wrongs in the region.
Anna Gallagher made the remarks to the Catholic News Service days before Vice President Kamala Harris prepared for her June 7-8 diplomatic trip – a trip designed to set the tone for U.S. immigration policy toward Central America .
“For decades, the United States has supported corrupt presidents and regimes in the Americas and the Caribbean Basin, including El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras,” Gallagher said.
“These governments have oppressed their own people, have systematically failed to uphold the rule of law and recognize the human rights of their own citizens and have even committed genocides,” added the head of CLINIC.
Gallagher was scheduled to meet with a group of leaders of Catholic organizations, Vatican officials and prelates from the Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States as well as Mexico and Central America on June 1-2 in Chicago for a gathering without precedent on immigration.
In a May 30 phone call and May 31 email with CNS, she said these actions, over the decades, had negatively and disproportionately affected the region’s poor, resulting in current immigration problems. and massive displacement on the continent.
Now it is up to the United States to welcome some of those who have been displaced due to the conditions created, she said. After all, the international business community has benefited from the support and policies of the US government that have given way to “massive state-sponsored corruption and violence in these countries.”
“Thousands and thousands of men, women and children in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are fleeing danger, economic misery and deprivation,” said Gallagher. “The situation in their country has become unbearable and they have legitimate and strong asylum claims in the United States. Under our laws, they have the right to enter the United States and seek protection.”
In addition to Gallagher, the Chicago meeting brought together representatives of the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugees Section, as well as American Cardinals Blase J. Cupich of Chicago and Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, and American Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas. , and Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington, among others.
The Archbishop of Los Angeles, José H. Gomez, President of the USCCB, was also due to speak.
The meeting will also have the expected participation of bishops from the so-called “Northern Triangle”, where many migrants to the United States come from. They are Cardinal Álvaro Ramazzini from Huehuetenango, Guatemala; Bishop Guido Charbonneau from Choluteca, Honduras; Salvadoran Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador and Bishop Oswaldo Escobar of Chalatenango; as well as Mexican Archbishop Gustavo Rodríguez Vega of Yucatán and Auxiliary Bishop Alfonso Miranda Guardiola of Monterrey.
The Northern Triangle region as well as Mexico have been a focal point for the United States, which has long tried to deter the movement of migrants. During his administration, President Donald Trump attempted to provide economic incentives and create roadblocks to stop their movement.
The Biden administration addresses the challenge by saying it wants to focus on tackling ‘root causes’, increasing jobs in the region and reducing violence and corruption in order to improve conditions in order to that the citizens of these countries do not see the need to leave home.
Corruption at the highest levels, however, has continued to be a staple of Central America and although the United States strives to establish better transparency, it is hard to come by as the region experiences a wave of authoritarian rulers.
However, as Gallagher, a child of Irish immigrants to the United States, sees it, the United States should “refuse deterrence practices”, and instead remove roadblocks for people struggling to find a way out. reunite with their families, fleeing violence or simply trying to have a better economic future.
One of the most pressing concerns some voiced ahead of the Chicago meeting is the policy known as Title 42, which the Trump administration used during the COVID-19 pandemic to ask border patrol agents deport anyone caught trying to enter the United States instead of treating them. under the current immigration law.
It remained in place under the Biden administration and kept migrants in unsafe conditions in cities across Mexico along the border teeming with crime.
Gallagher said the administration should eliminate Title 42.
“We must work with Mexico to create safe and dignified conditions along the border (for) these vulnerable men, women and children who are waiting to be treated in the United States as asylum seekers. Treatment must be done quickly to avoid further trauma, “Gallagher said.
“We need a system in which our ports are fully operational and open to accept anyone seeking protection in a safe and humane manner,” she said. “We must refuse the practices of deterrence, detention and rockets that have been used in the past. We must offer vaccines to all who enter for our protection and theirs.”
Asylum seekers can also receive information about immigration legal services in their cities and towns of destination and government agencies and non-profit organizations can work together to provide this information and welcome them to their destinations, a she declared.
“Access to legal representation is vital. Research confirms that legal representation works to ensure the active participation and respect of asylum seekers in their cases before immigration courts. Both the public and private sectors need to be involved. ‘unite to provide funds to support this effort,’ she said.
Catholic organizations such as CLINIC can help in such a national effort, she added.
According to Gallagher, “CLINIC has nearly 400 branches across the United States, which provide immigration legal representation to thousands of low-income men, women and children.”
“We have been doing this work for over 30 years and have the depth and breadth of knowledge and experience working with these communities, which is particularly relevant now,” she said.
“Our Catholic faith,” she added, “motivates us and our practical field experience has changed and transformed many lives, including for those who serve communities. Our work saves and changes lives.”
CLINIC has organized and advocated for humane and fair treatment of asylum seekers in the past, she said, and has “played an important role in directly serving refugees, organizing coalitions and advocating for humane and dignified conditions, including access to asylum “.
She said she realizes, however, that there are Catholics in the pews who may not share this vision, but asks them to consider the teaching of the church.
“There is room at the table and we all belong to each other as Jesus teaches. As Catholics, we are guided by our faith. We are told to welcome the stranger,” he said. she declared. “As we age, we should increasingly regard the men, women and children we meet as our own.
“As soon as I look through this lens, the lens of my faith, my door is open and my heart is ready to accept. We have to do this as Catholics, as people of faith.”