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US Bishop Urges Senate to Reject Border Fence
Says It Wouldn't Solve Problem of Illegal Immigration

WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 27, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration urged all Senators to oppose the Secure Fence Act of 2006, and to enact comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

In a letter to the Senate on behalf of his committee, Bishop Gerald Barnes said the legislation could contribute to smuggling-related violence along the U.S.-Mexican border as well as lead to an increase in the number of migrant deaths.

The bishop's letter also said the legislation would not solve the problem of illegal immigration and would send the wrong signal to Mexico, a peaceful neighbor of the United States, and the world community.

The Secure Fence Act, or H.R. 6061, is likely to be considered by the Senate this week.

"We oppose H.R. 6061 because we believe it would not solve the problem of illegal immigration," Bishop Barnes wrote. "Indeed, we believe it would create more problems than it would solve."

The bishop of San Bernardino, California, said enactment of the measure could "drive those seeking to cross the border to take more remote and dangerous routes, resulting in more unnecessary and tragic migrant deaths in the American desert."

Rise in deaths

Bishop Barnes, 61, cited a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report which chronicled an alarming rise in migrant deaths since a border crackdown by the government began over 10 years ago.

The prelate added that the bill could result in an increase in smuggling-related border violence.

Pointing to a rise in such violence in recent years, he said the U.S. bishops were "troubled" that the legislation "would cause smugglers to redouble their efforts to penetrate open portions of the border, leading to more violence against Border Patrol agents, local police enforcement, and community residents."

Bishop Barnes also expressed concern that the border fence contained in the measure would be viewed in this hemisphere and overseas as "a sign of fear, weakness, and isolation, not strength and engagement."

"It also would undercut our moral authority," he said, "to request other nations to accept war refugees, for example, or other vulnerable populations."

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