ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester has joined other religious leaders in voicing concerns about the political rhetoric surrounding immigration as the presidential primary campaign heads to New Mexico.
Without mentioning any candidate by name, Wester said Monday that candidates who blame immigrants for the nation’s problems are diverting attention from other issues such as poverty and inequality.
“I think some of the rhetoric coming out of this campaign is deplorable,” said Wester, who heads the Catholic church in the state with the highest percentage of Latinos. “It’s scapegoating and targeting people like the immigrant, the refugee and the poor.”
New Mexico will hold its primary on June 7.
Wester said some of the immigration proposals by the candidates should alarm voters.
GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump has drawn the most scrutiny from immigration advocates for saying he would push for the mass deportation of an estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally.
Trump also has said he would support requiring Muslims to register in a database and has vowed to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump has compared Mexican immigrants to rapists and drug dealers — a comparison that drew strong criticism from opponents and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a fellow Republican and the nation’s only Latina governor.
The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, who heads the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said last week that Trump’s reference to murderers and rapists crossing the border was “demagoguery” that misrepresents the vast majority of immigrants in the country illegally.
In February, Pope Francis, the first pope from Latin America, declared that a person is “not Christian” if he wants to address illegal immigration only by building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Wester also said he hoped the issue surrounding refugees fleeing violence in Syria gets more attention as the presidential campaign moves toward the general election. He said various nonprofit groups and Catholic relief organizations are working to resettle the refugees.