As caravan concerns rise, Laredo’s Bishop Tamayo urges respect, compassion for migrants

December 11, 2018

HOUSTON — Laredo’s Bishop James A. Tamayo is calling Church leaders and lay faithful to “extend the compassion of Christ” to those who come to Catholic churches in need.

Bishop Tamayo leads the youngest diocese in Texas and the U.S. The south Texas city of Laredo borders the Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo, and local Catholic leaders are “preparing to help in any way ... should the caravan come to our doorsteps,” he said.

His comments come as tensions with tear gas and violence rise on the far west part of the U.S.-Mexico border in Baja California. Thousands of people with a caravan from Central America began arriving in Tijuana, Mexico, Nov. 13, and more continue to arrive.

Bishop Tamayo said his diocesan and social services staff have met with local and national border officials to ensure that the position of the Catholic Church on immigration is known.

The government knows of the Church’s respect of the nation’s laws, he said, “but also of our desire if some (migrants) come in need of health care, if some come to try to reunite with family members, we want to help them through the legal process or if they’re at our door and they need food, they need medical care and attention, they want to tell their story and seek asylum from violence and from the governmental structures of their own country, they should be heard.”

Respect is key to the process of dialogue with local and national officials, Bishop Tamayo said.
“We need to respect them because they have policies and guidelines,” he continued. “When we can tell them we know what you must do or what your policies state, we need to help you to see where the Church stands too. We respect all of that but in turn we ask you to come to know us. Our Church is composed of the people of the community.”

Bishop Tamayo said Church leaders tell border officials that “as you stand at the border following your law of safeguarding the frontier, we stand too at a border to see that everyone that comes, knocks, that travels across or desires to travel across is respected, is assisted with their questions, their concerns, their immediate needs.”

Still, with this “there is a spirit of collaboration,” he said.