Dignity, values and rights for migrants in Mexico

Interview with Bishop Guillermo Ortiz Mondragón, Bishop of Cuautitlán, responsible for Human Mobility (DEPMH) at the Mexican Bishops Conference by Alberto Arciniega from Caritas Mexico

“The Church has a commitment to tell migrants they are sons and daughters of God and that their mission of being obliged to leave their place of origin is not to lose their culture and to share it with their host community,” says Bishop Guillermo Ortiz Mondragón. “We should remind them of their task to regain their identity before God, themselves and other people so as never to feel they are a nuisance.”

The World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2016, called by Pope Francis, took place on Sunday 17 January. The theme was “Migrants and Refugees Challenge Us. The Response of the Gospel of Mercy”. Mexico plays a leading role in this international drama. It is a country which workers and entire families leave to go to the United States due to lack of economic opportunities and the violence that exists in some areas, and it is also a country migrants pass through on their way from Latin America and the Caribbean to the US and Canada. It is also a place of welcome for those who do not complete their journey to the so-called American Dream.

Dignity, values and rights for migrants in Mexico. At the House of Charity in San Luis Potosi, Caritas provides a resting place for thousands of migrants, some of them arrived on foot. Photo by Worms/Caritas

In Mexico, at the House of Charity in San Luis Potosi, Caritas provides a resting place for thousands of migrants, some of them arrived on foot. Photo by Worms/Caritas

“The Pope invites us to take up the Church’s task of mercy and forgiveness, and with migrants this means informing or reminding them that they are human persons, with dignity, values and rights,” says Bishop Ortiz, who is responsible for coordinating Mexican Catholics’ efforts to support our brothers and sisters who have become migrants.

“Therefore, they should understand that their mission is being obliged to leave their place of origin and they should ask God what it is, what their migration situation means for them, and what task the Lord has entrusted them with. No matter what circumstance led them to leave their country: personal improvement; a better job; or fleeing from violence, injustice or persecution.”

Bishop Ortiz reminds us that everyone is always on the move, on a constant journey, which may be only an inner one, for personal and spiritual improvement, or in physical movement, in search of better conditions and opportunities.

“The very fact migrants are seeking new horizons indicates the creative capacity of the human person, dignity, and the capacity to make free choices.

“May they take up this identity before God, themselves and other people so as not to feel like some sectors of society wish them to feel: that we don’t need them, we don’t miss them, and they bother us,” he says.

The Bishop recalls that the Mexican Catholic Church has a large number of shelter houses for migrants that keep their doors open, including in Tapachula, Mexico City and its diocese, Cuautitlán and on the border with the United States.

During his upcoming visit from 12 to 17 February, it’s important for the Pope to visit both ends of the country: San Cristóbal de las Casas and Tuxtla Gutiérrez in Chiapas, and Ciudad Juárez in Chihuahua, the regions through which migrants from the entire continent enter and leave Mexico. “The Pope is expressing a concern that is infecting us and let’s hope we all catch it, especially senior government figures.

“How wonderful that he’s coming to these places to talk to us, to help us so that the Lord may touch our hearts and help us to raise awareness of this problem,” said Bishop Ortiz.

Bishop Ortiz explains that the Mexican Bishops’migration department is dialoguing with the immigration authorities to try and help the thousands of Cubans who are attempting to reach the United States from Central America via Mexico.

“Rather than replacing those who guide migrants across the border, it’s a question of first recognising their right to migrate and then giving it to them, as part of Christian charity, without any ideological or party vision, respecting the laws of each country. Indeed, supporting them in whatever way possible”.

“God has blessed us with the grace of having recent Popes who are concerned about the global migration problem,” he says.

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