A Roman Catholic bishop in Texas escorted Central American migrants back and forth across a U.S.-Mexico border bridge Thursday as part of a protest against conditions migrants face as they wait for asylum claims to be processed on both sides of the span.
Reporters followed El Paso Bishop Mark J. Seitz as he accompanied migrants across the Lerdo International Bridge as part of his “Faith Action” protest, which specifically condemned the Trump administration's Migrant Protection Protocols immigration policy.
Critics have derisively called it the “Remain in Mexico” policy. It requires migrants who come to El Paso over the bridge to return to Ciudad Juarez. Migrants wait in Mexico for weeks and sometimes months in crowded conditions before border agents call them back into the U.S. to process their asylum claims, El Paso’s KVIA-TV reported.
Seitz, a 65-year-old native of Wisconsin, and a Mexican priest from the Diocese of Ciudad Juárez prayed over a Honduran couple and their three children as they walked along the bridge to meet with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers to make an asylum claim, the Dallas Morning News reported.
"Standing here at the U.S.-Mexico border, how do we begin to diagnose the soul of our country?" Seitz told reporters in both Spanish and English. He condemned the U.S. government for treating children in custody “worse than animals” and for seeing “fleeing children and families as threats.”
After border agents on the U.S. side of the bridge rejected a group of migrants, Seitz walked with them back to Mexico and met with the Rev. Javier Calvillo, director of Casa del Migrante, the diocesan migrant shelter.
Seitz’ diocese claimed hundreds of migrants, including women and children, are forced to leave El Paso and return every day to Ciudad Juarez, where “there is a critical lack of access to shelter, food, legal aid and basic services.”
Officials at CBP did not comment publicly on the protest. More than 15,000 Central American asylum applicants have been returned to Mexico while their cases are processed in the U.S., according to the Morning News.