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Guest opinion

Tucson bishop: Not-guilty verdict 'deeply troubling' in border shooting death

Yesterday's deeply troubling jury decision related to the Border Patrol agent stationed in the Nogales area, who fired multiple shots across our border with Mexico, killing a 16-year-old boy on October 10, 2012, raises serious issues of justice and accountability.

While we are privileged to live in a nation whose greatness is rooted in its democracy and fair treatment of all, such decisions reveal that our democratic institutions are not without flaws and occasionally grave injustices. I find myself in a close bond of fraternity and solidarity with the family of Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez and the many who have been unable to achieve the kind of authentic justice upon which our nation was founded.

While the issue at hand is primarily one of law enforcement, nonetheless, it is yet another reminder of our broken immigration system. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with the Arizona Catholic Conference, continues its longstanding commitment of urging Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The key values that underscore this reform are (1) affirming the human dignity of all persons regardless of their legal status, (2) the right to have a well-regulated border, (3) the right of people to immigrate, and (4) an orderly process to welcome new immigrants whose inalienable human dignity must always be respected.

We must keep in mind that customs and border control agents are oftentimes placed in situations of great danger. Too, there are times when their efforts have resulted in saving the lives of those in great peril. We rely upon their high degree of professionalism and integrity.

However, I respectfully call for continued scrutiny of the methods and procedures employed by those who secure our nation's borders, for transparent accountability, for a renewed sense of dignity and the humane treatment of all persons regardless of their legal status, and for authentic justice when human rights are denied.

Edward J. Weisenburger is the bishop of the Diocese of Tucson.

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Paul Ingram/

A photograph of 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, killed by Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz, during a cross-border shooting in October 2012.


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