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Texas Bishop Calls Abbott “Racist” Over Immigration Policies

The revolt of Texas clergy against Governor Greg Abbott’s extreme right actions continues with a Texas Bishop castigating Abbott over his border policies.

Bishop Mark Seitz of the Diocese of El Paso took Abbott to task during a March 18 lecture at Fairfield University, a Jesuit institution in Connecticut. Seitz, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Office of Migration, highlighted Abbott’s building of dangerous razor-wire barriers without the permission of the federal government or U.S. Border Patrol. The U.S. Supreme Court had to step in and tell Abbott he was not allowed to construct his own border fortifications.

“You have seen the Humvees and the concertina wire and the national guardsmen on the television,” he said. “People of faith have a duty to resist these racist projects.”

Seitz has spoken out repeatedly against the Abbott Administration regarding its militarization of the border and increased criminalization of migration. His office in the church specifically oversees the protection of vulnerable and marginalized people as they move across the Americas. He told the Catholic newspaper Crux that Abbott cruelly represents migrants as a danger rather than people fleeing desperate and unsafe situations.

“I’m very disappointed in the narrative that is being promoted to this day that people who are fleeing to our border are a threat to us in the first place,” Seitz said. “It’s just a tremendous misunderstanding of what’s happening.”

The Catholic Church has been resisting the state’s migrant policies for some time now. In December, Dylan Corbett, the executive director of the Hope Border Institute, also denounced Abbott’s razor wire scheme as “immoral.”  The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops also wrote to Attorney General Ken Paxton, pleading with him to be “mindful of the more vulnerable and marginalized among us.”

Catholics are not the only Christians resisting Abbott’s border policies. Ralph West, an evangelical pastor at The Church Without Walls in Houston, penned an op-ed in September against Abbott’s floating river barriers. These barriers have been called dangerous by experts as they could lead to drownings. They also violate a treaty with Mexico.

“Policies that lack compassion not only leave migrants vulnerable to additional suffering and exploitation, but they also fail at securing the border — the very thing they were designed to do,” he said. “If our country is serious about finding real solutions for immigration and border security concerns, then we need to collectively agree that imposing inhumane barriers and policies that dishonor the humanity of migrants are not the answer.”

While Abbott seems to have the support of most of the Texas Christian communities, more and more clergy are rebuking him for policies that seem more like brutal political theater than solid border security. Church leaders who actually preach and minister to these populations increasingly find the governor’s depiction of them as a criminal invading horde to be unfair and bigoted. Thus far, it has not cost Abbott significant political support, but there are definitely cracks in his church wall.

Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner is an award-winning freelance journalist, the author of The Rook Circle, and a member of The Black Math Experiment. He lives in Houston where he spends most of his time investigating corruption and strange happenings. Jef has written for Houston Press, Free Press Houston, and Houston Chronicle.

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