Policy changes demanded following border deaths
July - August 2001
(NCC)—Leaders of 20 faith-based and human rights groups, including the Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program, are putting responsibility for the deaths of thousands of men, women and children crossing the Mexico/U.S. border largely on U.S. border enforcement and immigration policies.
"While our government pursues policies aimed at breaking down barriers to trade and encouraging the integration of economies throughout North America, it simultaneously attempts to physically close off our southern border from the migrant flows generated by this process of integration," they point out in an "open letter" sent to the White House and members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate Judiciary Committees.
They call on the U.S. government to legalize economic migration, declaring, "As people of faith, we cannot stand by and watch as our government continues to implement a set of policies that result in the brutal, invisible deaths of people engaging in an ancient human practice—a search for a better life." Restrictive U.S. immigration policies "fuel the business of human smuggling," they write, "and force migrants into the most remote and dangerous border regions."
"The labor of the ‘undocumented' in this country has contributed greatly to the economic growth of our economy in the past decades," they say. "To end the hypocrisy, independent worker visas should be created to allow migrants to cross the border safely and legally and to work in the U.S. free from exploitation and discrimination."
Among those who signed the letter were the Rev. Barbara Gerlach, co-pastor of First Congregational UCC, Washington, D.C., and Co-Chair of the Colombia Human Rights Committee; Wendy Pomeroy, Director of Church World Service/ Immigration and Refugee Service; and the Rev. Robin Hoover, President, Humane Borders, in Tucson, Ariz. Church World Service and Humane Borders are supported in part by UCC One Great Hour of Sharing giving.
For the full text of the letter, go to www.ncccusa.org/news/01news49.html.