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Mexican bishop: Migrant caravan should be ‘treated like brothers’

Tapachula, Mexico, Jan 22, 2020 / 12:40 am (CNA).- 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.”

Trump administration considers travel bans on up to seven more countries

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2020 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- More travel bans and restrictions could be coming from the Trump administration, with up to seven countries targeted.

Citizens of Belarus, Burma, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania could face more travel restrictions, as initially reported by the news site Politico. The restrictions could be announced Jan. 27, the third anniversary of the administration’s first travel bans.

The restrictions under consideration are not finalized and might not necessarily be a complete ban, but rather could apply only to certain government officials or certain types of visas, like business or visitor visas.

Some countries the Trump administration is considering for new travel restrictions have had good relations with the U.S. or have been the subjects of U.S. efforts to improve relations, Politico reports.

The administration has justified travel restrictions as an anti-terrorism measure, saying the travelers are not adequately vetted.

The original executive order was issued Jan. 27, 2017, prompting hundreds of demonstrators to gather at airports. The first order denied visas to citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries.

The order was modified and went through several court challenges. In its current form it restricts entry of some citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and North Korea. Chad was on the original list, but was removed.

Lawyers, advocates for Muslim immigrants, and other critics said the administration’s travel ban still constituted a “Muslim ban” since most of the countries under the ban are Muslim-majority.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the travel ban in June 2018, ruling that President Donald Trump was acting within the limits of his authority when he enacted the travel ban on nationals from seven countries.

At the time of the ruling, leaders of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee and religious freedom committee said the travel ban “targets Muslims for exclusion, which goes against our country's core principle of neutrality when it comes to people of faith.” The Supreme Court “failed to take into account the clear and unlawful targeting of a specific religious group by the government,” the bishops said.
 
Most possible additions to the list do not have travel restrictions. The Wall Street Journal said people from Eritrea, Nigeria, and Sudan on business or visitor visas appeared much more likely to overstay their permits.

This week White House spokesman Hogan Gidley did not confirm to Politico any details about expanded ban or travel restrictions, but said the original order “has been profoundly successful in protecting our country and raising the security baseline around the world.”

“While there are no new announcements at this time, common sense and national security both dictate that if a country wants to fully participate in U.S. immigration programs, they should also comply with all security and counter-terrorism measures — because we do not want to import terrorism or any other national security threat into the United States,” Gidley said.

Trump first proposed a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. after a string of terrorist attacks, including a December 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, California that left 14 dead and 22 injured. The shooters were a married couple who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group shortly before the attack. One was a U.S. citizen and the other was a Pakistani national who moved to the U.S. on a fiancée visa.

His comments drew condemnation and concern from many who worried explicitly targeting migrants based on religion was wrong in itself and would enable U.S. laws and policies targeting other religious groups.

Opposition to death penalty growing among Republicans, activists say

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2020 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- The number of Republican state lawmakers opposed to capital punishment is growing, a conservative group claims, as anti-death penalty activists look forward to continued momentum from the right on this issue in 2020. 

“The nation is down to only 25 states that still have an active death penalty system, of those, over a third have not used it in a decade or more,” Hannah Cox, National Manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, told CNA in a statement. 

“We anticipate the downward trends to continue around capital punishment and expect to see more states join those that have repealed their systems over the next year.”

At the national level, the parties are divided on the issue.

The 2016 Republican Party platform stated that “The constitutionality of the death penalty is firmly settled by its explicit mention in the Fifth Amendment,” and that “With the murder rate soaring in our great cities, we condemn the Supreme Court’s erosion of the right of the people to enact capital punishment in their states.” 

Conversely, the 2016 Democratic Party platform called for the abolition of capital punishment, which was refered to as “arbitrary and unjust.” 

Despite the platform plank, Republican lawmakers seem relatively unafraid to introduce bills to repeal the practice. 

In the 2020 legislative season, five state legislatures are considering Republican-sponsored bills to overturn the death penalty: Colorado, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Washington. Last year, repeal bills were introduced with Republican sponsors in 10 states. That is a two-state increase from 2018. 

Out of the 10 states that considered bills to abolish the death penalty, one, in New Hampshire, passed, and went into effect in 2019. Another, in Wyoming, failed in the Senate.

New Hampshire repealed the death penalty for anyone who was convicted of capital murder after May 30, 2019. Although the bill was initially vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, it was overruled by a two-thirds majority in both of the state’s legislative chambers. 

In the veto vote, about 40% of the state’s Republican senators voted to overturn the death penalty. 

With New Hampshire overturning the death penalty, there are now no states in New England where capital punishment is legal. There is, however, one man on the Granite State’s death row: Michael “Stix” Addison was convicted in 2008 after murdering a police officer, Michael Biggs. Addison is still eligible for the death penalty, unless his sentence is commuted to life in prison. 

The last person executed in New Hampshire was executed in 1939. Several previous efforts in the 21st century to repeal the death penalty had failed. 

In Wyoming, the bill to repeal the death penalty died in the state Senate, which is composed of 27 Republicans and three Democrats. The bill’s main sponsor was Republican Sen. Brian Boner. 

The bill failed on a vote of 18-12. Wyoming has only executed one person since the Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that the death penalty is a legal punishment. There is nobody presently on the state’s death row.

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