McCain Tells Immigration Activists: ‘Your Morality…Is Geographic’

By Penny Starr | July 10, 2014 | 1:52 PM EDT

A Catholic priest offers communion to incarcerated immigrants. (Courtesy of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)

( – Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told Catholics and other immigrant rights activists at a conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday that the Central American children who are streaming across the U.S.-Mexico border aren’t the only youth suffering around the world, which makes their morality “geographic.”

“Can these children from Nigeria get here?” McCain said, referring to the more than 200 schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists earlier this year in Nigeria. “Can they come up across our border? Of course not. Your morality, I think, is geographic.”

McCain made his remarks at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) 2014 National Migration Conference, where hundreds of Catholics and other activists attended workshops and lobbied members of Congress on immigrant rights, including the rights of those who are in the country illegally.

Earlier in his remarks McCain referred to youth suffering in non-contiguous countries following a question from a USCCB staffer about Central American children who could die if they are sent back to their home countries.

“I hope you’re not forgetting that there’s other countries in the world besides the three in Central America where terrible things are happening,” McCain said.

“Look at the young women that are still missing,” McCain said, referring to the Nigerian schoolgirls.

“But they can’t show up at our border, because they live an ocean away,” McCain said. “It’s fundamentally unfair, among other things, to say a certain group of people because geographically they are located in a favorable position and those who are not.

“I don’t know anything more horrible than these young women who were kidnapped, who we still haven’t found and the situation that exists there,” McCain said.

On the USCCB website, the purpose of the conference is stated as follows: “The National Migration Conference is intended to build the capacity of the Catholic Church and society to advance the life and dignity of the human person in our work with immigrants, migrants, refugees, unaccompanied migrant children, victims of human trafficking, and other vulnerable people on the move.”

The four-day conference concludes Thursday.