Eight months ago, Pope Francis marked his first official trip out of Rome to the island of Lampedusa where he paid homage to migrants who died trying to reach to Europe. On Tuesday, one of his key advisers and other Roman Catholic leaders followed in Francis’ footsteps and held a mass at the U.S. Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona to highlight the moral case for immigration reform and to commemorate border deaths. Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston led a group of bishops from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to tour the border, conduct communions through the border fence, and to hold a “border mass.”
Between 1998 and May 2013, at least 5,595 border crossers have perished trying to cross the southern border. Just last year alone, more than 450 immigrants died crossing the southern border. And in 2007, officials in Pima County, a region to the west and north of the city of Nogales, recovered a record 218 bodies. Nogales is also the site of another form of sadness — the Nogales port of entry received nearly 55,000 deportees in 2011. Here are six of the best photos from Tuesday’s border mass:
The USCCB has made immigration reform a top priority, even writing a letter to the Obama administration last week urging action to reduce the number of deportations. And the Pope met with President Obama last Thursday to talk about immigration reform, even promising a young girl that he would try to talk to the President about her father’s deportations. The man was released Saturday and the pair reunited at Los Angeles International Airport soon afterwards.
Polls show that religious individuals support allowing undocumented immigrants to remain in the country, including 59 percent of all Catholics. Ninety-one percent of Hispanic Catholics support immigration reform, while 70 percent of “non-Hispanic white Catholics” support the same. Since House Republicans have done little to move on immigration reform, some faith leaders have turned to calling on Obama to halt deportations, even risking arrest at the White House. But other religious leaders like Jewish advocates for reform have also turned to House Republican leaders like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in the hopes to “bring the voice of a broad swath of the community.”