The bishop of the southern Mexican border town of Tapachula is calling for members of an incoming migrant caravan to be “treated as brothers” and welcomed by the faithful.
“We don’t know if the brothers that are coming in the caravan will be able to cross the border, reach Tapachula or even continue beyond our state of Chiapas, crossing our diocesan territory” said Bishop Jaime Calderón.
However, he said, it is the job of the faithful “to ensure that whether they’re passing through, or in a temporary or permanent stay in our diocesan territory, that the migrant brothers don’t incur more suffering than that which inherently accompanies a long, arduous, rugged, unsafe and violent journey.”
A migrant caravan left San Pedro Sulas in Honduras last week. According to media reports, the caravan consists of about 1,000 people hoping to make it to the United States.
After a 2018 caravan of thousands of Central American migrants crossed through Mexico and arrived at the southern U.S. border, the Trump administration put pressure on the Mexican government to stem the flow of migrants, threatening tariffs if they did not. Mexico then deployed thousands of National Guard troops to their southern border to reduce the passage of migrants.
In addition, the Trump administration last year introduced a new “Remain in Mexico” policy that requires asylum seekers - mainly families with children - to remain in border towns while their cases are processed by immigration courts, a procedure that may take years.
Nevertheless, many migrants from Central America – particularly Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala – continue seeking safety in the United States, as they flee nations marked by poverty and some of the highest rates of violence in the world.
At a Jan. 17 press conference, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that some 3,000 Central American migrants are currently seeking to enter Mexico at different points along its southern border.
According to the Mexican website Animal Político, Mexico’s Secretary of the Interior, Olga Sánchez Cordero, warned that “in no way do we have transit visas or even safe conduct passes” for the migrants.
Mexico, said Sánchez Cordero, “is not a country that gives safe conduct passes, it’s a country that opens its doors to people who want to enter and migrate to our country.”
However, she said that if the members of the caravan “wish to have some kind of immigration, refugee or asylum status [in Mexico], we will gladly attend to them.”
President López Obrador said there are more than 4,000 jobs available at the southern border, along with shelters and medical care.
Animal Político reported that Mexico’s National Migration Institute has received just over 1,000 migrants so far, and is reviewing their cases on an individual basis to see what opportunities they are eligible for, based on their specific conditions. The majority of applicants are expected to be sent back to their country of origin.
Bishop Calderón stressed that the Church takes the position “of the Good Samaritan that comes to the aid of those who have been beaten down by the violence of life and suffer the hardships of the journey in the effort to find better living conditions for themselves and their families.”
He asked Catholic individuals and parishes in his diocese “to ensure that these brother migrants are not lacking bread, that they’re not violated or assaulted on their passage through our diocese, that they don’t receive signs of rejection or contempt.”
The migrants should be welcomed, he said, so that they feel, “despite such adverse circumstances, that they travel among brothers and as brothers, not as strangers, nor adventurers, nor criminals, nor exiles, nor despised people.”
“God will reward the effort each person makes to see them, feel for them and treat them as brothers,” the bishop said. “In the same way we would like our undocumented countrymen to be treated in the United States.”