Salvadoran bishops plead case of migrants
Roman Catholic bishops from El Salvador were in Washington, D.C. last week to plead the case for relief for more than 200,000 Salvadorans who face deportation to the country with the Trump administration's termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and DACA. Traveling to the US capital were Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez, the archbishop of San Salvador Jose Luis Escobar Alas and other Salvadoran bishops in meetings coordinated by Catholic Relief Services and the US Conference of Bishops.
Although it is not at all clear that there are sufficient receptive ears in Washington right now, the words of the bishops do provide an eloquent testimony regarding the reality facing many Salvadorans both in the country and those facing deportation.
When a house is on fire, you don’t lock the doors to the outside to help save the people trapped inside, but that’s what U.S. policy is doing when it brings to an end two immigration programs that have helped more than 200,000 Salvadorans live, study and work in the U.S., said a U.S. archbishop April 13.
Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski made the comments as he joined Salvadoran bishops in Washington on a panel about the root causes of poverty, violence and migration. ....
Social exclusion, idolatry of money, impunity, corruption and individualism have been to blame for the problems that led to a 12-year civil war in the 1980s and early 1990s, but also for the current strife, [Salvadoran archbishop] Escobar said.
Cardinal Rosa Chavez, who said he works with a program that reaches out to gang members, explained that he has spoken to some of the youth and asked them why they felt the need for violence. He also, he said, has asked them why they were willing to accept the help the Church was giving them.
Some of them spoke of bad environments, at home or in their neighborhood, and said they went to the church programs because they felt loved. That helped him realize that people are like fish in a tank, he said. If you don’t have clean conditions in the water, the fish get upset and fight each other. But if the water is clean, the fish are happy, he said.
“We need to change the water,” meaning the environment which some folks are surrounded by in El Salvador and that means changing their economic and other conditions, he said.
Even those who victimize, “they, too, are victims,” he said.In an editorial from Cardinal Rosa Chavez and archbishop Wenski, published over the weekend, they stated:
Sending people back to that is not just wrong, it is cruel. “Deportees” will undoubtedly stand out and be targeted by gangs for extortion or worse because the gangs will think they have money. Those hoping to take their hard-earned entrepreneurship skills honed in the U.S. back to El Salvador will soon be targeted by criminal gangs, who daily extort businesses with the threat of violence.
With high rates of unemployment, the Salvadoran society simply doesn’t have the capacity to receive and properly integrate that many people. Sending people back will further exasperate the root causes of poverty, violence, and inequality that perpetuate forced migration out of the country. And the loss of remittances sent to relatives by TPS recipients in the US will make a difficult economic situation even worse.Unfortunately, I fear the words of the bishops may prove more a prediction of the actual future for El Salvador than the words of motivation which produce a change in US policy.