March 24, 2006


Building bridges through immigration reform

You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth noting again and again and again: We are all made in the image and likeness of God.

There are no exceptions to that biblical teaching, either. Whether of Irish descent, African, Asian or from Central or South America, our Creator played a role—the biggest role possible—in bringing each of us into this world.

We may be from different countries, speak different languages, have different vocations and even be on different sides of the political spectrum, but in the end, one constant remains: We are all children of God. That includes a newborn going home with his working-class, American-born parents in Dubuque, Iowa, or the young Mexican couple with a toddler seeking a new beginning in Danville, Indiana.

Two families. Two distinct lifestyles. Both families of God.

Their examples lead to two questions that have come to the forefront recently for those of us Christians who want to “walk the walk” and “talk the talk” each day where our faith is concerned: Do we see Jesus in others? Are we Jesus to others?

The answer to those questions, apparently, depends upon whom you ask.

There is a heated battle taking place not only on various state fronts, but on a national stage as well, namely, where immigration laws are concerned.

While representatives and senators debate the issue in our nation’s capital (including possibly building a wall along 700 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border), state and Church leaders in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Georgia and California are making sure immigration reform is on people’s minds there, too. And many of them want people to know, whether an immigrant’s status is legal or not, they support efforts to assist the newcomer.

The Indiana Catholic Conference recently helped lead opposition to an effort that would have restricted assistance for undocumented immigrants. House Bill 1383, which would have restricted immigrants’ access to public services, including schools and hospitals, was defeated. We applaud ICC and Indiana legislators who are making sure we welcome the strangers among us—as taught in Matthew’s Gospel. They are, after all, our brothers and sisters in Christ.

More than 1,000 people supporting immigration reform took part in continuous eucharistic adoration for a week at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis in early March. What makes this action even more impressive is that people from all walks of life—including Latinos and Anglos—turned out to pray for those strangers among us seeking a new life in our country.

In neighboring Illinois, a crowd of 100,000 people turned out on March 10 in Chicago at an immigration rights march and rally. Only a few weeks earlier, a group of Chicago-area priests announced they were fasting on Ash Wednesday for immigration rights and hosting immigration prayer vigils at public sites every week during Lent.

More than 500 people gathered at Cincinnati’s Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains on March 11 to push for just immigration reform. They, too, pledged to pray for those who were escaping oppression, poverty and the lack of freedom in their own countries.

Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony asked Catholics to dedicate their Lenten prayers and practices to helping immigrants.

In Georgia, Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and Savannah Bishop J. Kevin Boland released a pastoral letter on March 1 calling for comprehensive immigration reform.

The Georgia bishops cited Catholic social teaching to make the point that the human dignity and human rights of undocumented immigrants should be respected.

Simply put, the aforementioned groups have let others know Christ is alive in their hearts. Their actions prove it.

We urge Catholics and all people of faith to follow these leads and let their voices be heard where immigration reform is concerned. We are a country of immigrants called to reach out to others hoping to achieve the American dream. Building a wall is not the answer to this challenge.

Do we see Jesus in others? Are we Jesus to others? Building bridges through faith—for all of God’s children—is what our Creator demands of us.

— Mike Krokos


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