Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso issued an open letter to Congress on May 5 strongly condemning the Secure the Border Act of 2023 as “extreme” and expressing the U.S. bishops’ position that the bill’s passage “is beyond justification.”
As chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, Seitz is a hardline advocate for the rights of immigrants and has been highly critical of efforts to restrict immigration by both Republicans and Democrats.
The Secure the Border Act of 2023 is sponsored by Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Tom McClintock and supported by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
The bill proposes to crack down on the record number of migrants who have been crossing the border under the Biden administration. The bill’s proposals include resuming construction of the border wall, ending the policy of “catch and release,” increasing the number of Border Patrol agents, and more.
According to Seitz’s letter, “this legislation contains such a combination of harmful measures that we [the bishops] believe its passage, on the whole, is beyond justification.”
Seitz claims that if passed the bill would “fundamentally weaken our nation’s decades-long commitment to humanitarian protection … endanger unaccompanied children and inflict harm on other vulnerable persons, decimate access to asylum, mandate damaging detention and removal practices, restrict access to legal employment, limit — and potentially eliminate — federal partnerships with faith-based and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), undermine the rule of law, and more.”
The bishops’ letter also condemns resuming construction of the border wall.
“We have long opposed the construction of a wall spanning the entire U.S.-Mexico border, especially with the dangers it poses to human life and the environment” and that this “bill would effectively undermine constitutional property rights and further abrogate the rights of those living near the border by prioritizing federal land acquisition above such rights,” the bishops’ letter reads.
Because of these issues, the bishops encourage members of Congress to oppose the Secure the Border Act of 2023.
“The provisions discussed,” wrote Seitz, “underscore the extreme nature of this bill, its incompatibility with Catholic social teaching, and its inconsistency with our nation’s broadly bipartisan commitment to humanitarian protection.”