SEATTLE – In its first Spanish-language panel discussion broadcast on Facebook Live, leaders from the Archdiocese of Seattle addressed the current immigration crisis with an eye toward dispelling myths and speaking directly to undocumented immigrants in Western Washington.
Moderated by the archdiocese’s director of Hispanic ministry, Edwin Ferrera, the August 21 panel featured Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo; Joe Cotton, director of pastoral care and outreach; and Malou Chavez, deputy director of Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.
“On behalf of Archbishop Sartain and Coadjutor Archbishop Etienne, we welcome you all,” said Bishop Elizondo, who assured undocumented Catholics that the church hears their concerns in the wake of recent raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement across the country.
“Know, those of you who are undocumented, that you are fully supported, that I hold you deep in my heart, in your struggles, in your fears, in all the circumstances you experience as immigrants in this country,” the bishop said.
He reiterated that the Catholic Church cares about them and sees them as a blessing for their faith and gifts.
The church is “not in agreement” with any leader who promotes “discrimination, acts of racism or xenophobia,” he said.
“We are all, as Christians, as Catholics, called to exercise our ultimate and most exalted mission, which is charity.”
Following Bishop Elizondo’s remarks, Cotton shared what the archdiocese and its partners are doing to support immigrants in Western Washington, including hosting “Know Your Rights” workshops, the recent “Walking & Witnessing for Immigrant Families” pilgrimage, regular Sunday Masses at the Northwest Detention Center, and an annual immigration summit to mobilize parish leaders, in addition to many parish-level activities.
“Our hearts are with you,” Cotton said, adding that the church is working to address “the root causes of migration as well as to improve the lives of immigrant around the world, nationally and locally.”
Chavez, an immigration attorney, sought to dispel misinformation about the current immigration situation.
“We are witnessing an increase in practices by the current administration that aim to cause and foster fear,” she said, “so we want to stress the importance for the community to have reliable information.”
The panel continued by discussing common questions from immigrants.
Asked about the church’s teaching and responsibility with respect to immigration, Bishop Elizondo emphasized, “Our mission is to assist all who come to us in charity.”
One question noted that immigration is seldom if ever addressed at some parishes.
“Our parishes are doing many great things already, but we need to do more,” Cotton said. He added that the archdiocese’s Immigrant and Refugee Ministry “is working to activate parishes … and help them respond in solidarity.”
At the conclusion of the panel, Bishop Elizondo offered a closing prayer affirming God’s nearness to all undocumented immigrants and gave blessings to their families.
“We are grateful to all the immigrants,” he said. “We are now enjoying the legacy of immigrants, who have shaped and built this great nation from its very beginning. We are now enjoying the potential and the benefits of this nation, which can be, if we want to, an even greater beacon of light in every aspect.”