October 27, 2006

Be Our Guest / Glenn Tebbe

Church seeks solutions that respect human needs, promote common good

One of the hot topics of the 2006 election is immigration.

While it is a serious political issue, too often it is used as a political tactic to engender fear, and little is done to educate or resolve the concern.

Public officials, political candidates and pundits attack those who disagree with the simplistic or “get tough” approaches. Many question the Church’s position and disparage Church officials and those who share the Church’s concern.

Some question how the Church can support those who “break the law.”

While this is a very complex public policy issue, the Church begins from a moral perspective and evaluates topics in light of sacred Scripture, the teachings of Jesus Christ, and from principles derived from the experience of trying to live and apply those teachings.

First, there are fundamental principles regarding state authority and law that the Church teaches and are applicable when considering the issue of immigration.

• The Church respects the right of nations to control their borders and for states to enact laws in the best interest of its citizens.

• The Church does not encourage illegal immigration, and urges leaders of all countries to establish policies and practices that will respect the human needs and common good for all God’s people.

• The Church respects the legitimate need for the state to have reasonable requirements for citizenship and its privileges.

However, there is another law that must be considered—God’s law or moral and natural law. The Church sees some rights as inherent in the human condition, natural rights which extend beyond all national boundaries and civic rights. Undocumented residents have natural rights from their inherent dignity as persons, each created in the image of God.

In the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, the natural rights of all persons are identified. Among them are “all that is necessary for living a genuinely human life; for example, food, clothing, housing, the right to freely choose their state of life and set up a family … .”

People migrate to try to make a better life for themselves and their family. The hardships just to get to the U.S. are so severe that only the strong of heart and faith are willing to endure the ordeal and often dangerous circumstances.

Immigrants come to the United States, not expecting to be given public aid, but for an opportunity to work and provide for themselves.

In fact, most are working, albeit many at low-paying jobs. Others are motivated because immigration policy and procedures are obstacles for reuniting families, spouses, children and parents of those who are here legally.

Returning undocumented residents as some suggest will only exaggerate the problems of immigrant families and cause more. Sending parents back only leaves children, who are citizens, without parents.

Immigrants are people with families, with hopes for a future and with the ordinary problems and joys like each of us. Think about the needs, fears and dreams you and members of your family have; immigrants are no different.

The Church encourages all citizens, and especially those responsible for public policy, to look at all aspects—moral and practical—of an issue in seeking to find solutions that respect human dignity and promote the common good for all God’s children.

(Glenn Tebbe is executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference.) †

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