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During the past year, we’ve heard a lot about immigration. Since this is a major issue in the upcoming elections at federal, state and even local levels, I want to take this opportunity to state as clearly as possible our Church’s position on this very important matter.
Here is a summary:
The Gospel mandate to “welcome the stranger” requires Catholics to care for and stand with newcomers, authorized and unauthorized, including unaccompanied immigrant children, refugees and asylum-seekers, those unnecessarily detained, and victims of human trafficking. Comprehensive reform is urgently necessary to fix a broken immigration system, and should include a broad and fair legalization program with a path to citizenship; a work program with worker protections and just wages; family reunification policies; access to legal protections, which include due process procedures; refuge for those fleeing persecution and violence; and policies to address the root causes of migration. (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” #81)
In my recent columns, I have made the statement that no individual candidate or party platform conforms perfectly to our Church’s views on the major issues being discussed in this election. Immigration is no exception.
That means that when we examine what the candidates and political parties are saying about this issue, we must be especially careful to understand both the moral principles involved and the practical implications of the views being espoused.
Church teaching on migration is grounded in our absolute conviction that every human person—regardless of his or her race, creed, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, country of origin or social and economic standing—is made in the divine image and likeness, and, therefore, is our sister or brother in the one family of God.
We welcome all, respect all, and strive to love all as members of God’s family. We refuse to reject anyone out of hand, and we insist that all who come to us (legally or illegally) must be treated with the courtesy we would extend to Christ himself.
In addition, we believe that all of us are immigrants. That is, we are all pilgrims who seek God no matter where we are or what our circumstances may be. As strangers and sojourners ourselves, we have no right to look down on or act superior toward those who seek refuge and a better life among us.
This insistence on human dignity and fair treatment for our fellow pilgrims does not mean that we fail to recognize the need for immigration policies that are ordered, legal and respectful of our nation’s right to maintain its borders.
On the contrary, we believe that the brokenness of our current system contributes directly to the inhumane treatment of many immigrants and their families.
We therefore strongly urge our elected officials, and those who are candidates for public office, to “fix a broken immigration system and … include a broad and fair legalization program with a path to citizenship; a work program with worker protections and just wages; family reunification policies; access to legal protections, which include due process procedures; refuge for those fleeing persecution and violence; and policies to address the root causes of migration.” (“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” #81)
We bishops know that these recommendations are not popular with many members of our community, who fear that their jobs are being threatened by illegal immigrants.
We also know that many argue that the current “open border” permits (even encourages) all kinds of trafficking that is both immoral and dangerous. We strongly urge that our leaders enact and enforce comprehensive reform measures that will fix these problems without punishing those whose only desire is a better life for themselves and their families.
Finally, we insist on the right to provide the Church’s pastoral care to all immigrants regardless of their legal status. One of the hallmarks of our religious freedom is the ability to be Christ for others no matter who they are or where they come from.
Pope Francis has repeatedly urged us to step outside our comfort zones to bring the Gospel to those on “the peripheries,” the margins, of our society. The Holy Father has also challenged us to build bridges among nations and peoples in order to clearly demonstrate our unity and solidarity with all humankind.
Which candidates and political parties stand for an end to the current broken system? Which will set aside rhetoric and empty promises in order to effect real, lasting change for the good of all?
This election, we must select those leaders who will truly welcome our sisters and brothers in Christ and achieve genuine reform. May Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, guide us! †