An Open Letter to the Bishops of Mexico on President Trump’s Border Wall
A secure border controlled by elected governments, not cartels, benefits both nations.
Your Excellencies and Your Eminences:
I write as someone who loves Mexico and Mexicans. I have visited your beautiful country many times. I’ve worked closely with artists, writers, pro-life activists, and catechists. I count among my friends many proud Mexicans. I have Mexican family members, by marriage.
My next book will focus on the theological message of Our Lady’s miraculous tilma, given to Juan Diego in Guadalupe. It will be published in English and Spanish.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico says Mexican companies that work on a border wall are betraying their country.
I want the best for Mexico, and all the people who live there. I also want the best for my native country, the United States. And that is why I’m writing.
I’m responding to the recent statement from the Archdiocese of Mexico. It addressed the security wall which our elected president, Donald Trump, proposes to build along the U.S.-Mexican border. According to the Associated Press:
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico says Mexican companies that express interest in working on a border wall in the United States are betraying their country.
The editorial titled “Treason against the Homeland” says that “what is most surprising is the timidity of the Mexican government’s economic authorities, who have not moved firmly against these companies.”
Understandable Hurt Feelings
I understand the gut feeling behind Mexican objections to the building of the border fence. Who wants to feel as if they are being scapegoated? Which nation wouldn’t bristle at the thought that its citizens are unwanted in neighboring lands? That they must be fenced in by foreigners?
Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric rubbed salt in the wound. He tapped into the sleeping nationalism of Americans. It proved as powerful as the nationalism that moves most Mexicans. When the patriotic feelings of two great neighboring nations come into conflict, the outcome can be tragic. So history teaches us.
Nationalism is Natural, on Both Sides of the Border
It is our job as Christians to take account of this natural sense of group identity, and its legitimate claims. But then we must look beyond it, to what we share in common. We must seek a win-win outcome for the people in both countries. Dedicating ourselves to that is the key to peace.
With that in mind I would like to ask you, as the religious leaders of Mexico’s millions of Catholics, to consider some key issues.
The U.S.-Mexican Border is Controlled by Cartels
We lack effective border patrols. So the movement of peoples between our countries is dominated by drug cartels and people smugglers. The same criminal organizations have infiltrated Mexico’s government at many levels. They terrorize Mexico’s people. They murdered family members of close friends of mine.
Scapegoating the United States has for too long replaced real discussion of how to improve Mexico.
As the Mexican mayor of a border town confessed to me, they use his community a hub in the large scale sex-trafficking of women from Asia into the United States. Every year hundreds of Mexicans die in the desert. They’re abandoned by the coyotes who took their money. “Rape trees” are covered with the torn clothes of victimized women.
Millions of Mexicans Work in the U.S. Underground Economy
These workers are totally at the mercy of their employers. They are unprotected by labor and safety laws. They’re uninsured against accidents and disease. That is the natural and unavoidable outcome of a massive, illegal influx of low-skilled workers into a country with strict labor laws. It leaves the immigrants vulnerable to cruel exploitation. It undermines the wages and rights of our native-born low-skill workers — millions of them of Mexican descent.
Mexico is an Oligarchy with Most Wealth Owned by the Few
I’ve been blessed to people at every level of Mexican society, from the apex to the poorest: Indios, whose ancestors were dispossessed long ago by conquistadors.
It is not, for the most part, the blue-eyed, light-skinned descendants of Spaniards who risk their lives to enter the United States. It’s not the 1/10 of 1 percenters.
Their ancestors built haciendas. They rigged “land reforms” to take the farms that the Church had held in trust for the Indios. They’re staying to enjoy their wealth.
No, it is the Indios, whom Mexico’s mighty elites would rather see flee the country than stay and demand their rights. Do you want the Church to be part of this “safety-valve” strategy that benefits the few?
Mexico Needs Reform, Not a Safety Valve
Shouldn’t the Church demand a more lasting and just solution? An economy open to all, not rigged via crony capitalism and Patron socialism, is what Mexico really needs.
Scapegoating the United States has for too long replaced real discussion of how to give Mexicans the honest government and free economy they deserve.
As a friend of Mexico, and a fellow Catholic who invokes the same Virgin of Guadalupe in my pro-life work every day, I hope that you consider these questions. We must reach across borders in the quest for the common good, as fellow creatures of God with infinite dignity and worth.