November 5, 2010

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Our Church family includes our immigrant brothers and sisters

Catholic News Service recently published a news article under the headline “Anchor babies—on the way out?”

“In this heated election season, one issue keeping debate simmering has been the suggestion from some members of Congress that the United States do away with birthright citizenship as it is defined under the 14th Amendment to the ­Constitution,” the article reads.

“While the issue comes loaded with sound-bite furor over ‘anchor babies,’ and the theory that denying citizenship to all newborns will somehow reduce the number of people in the country who are without legal status, a new study shows the opposite effect would result from changing the law.”

The 14th Amendment was passed in 1868, primarily to ensure full rights to former slaves. The current efforts to change the amendment targets the amendment’s phrasing that citizenship is granted to anyone born in the country who is “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States.

Three bills introduced in the House of Represtatives this session would attempt to reinterpret the amendment by an act of Congress to exclude the offspring of people who are here illegally.

“It is argued that the amendment lures people to enter the country illegally to have children here so those ‘anchor babies’ can provide their parents and extended family legal residency and U.S. citizenship,” the article continues.

“The reality is only after a child turns 18 can he petition for his parents to become legal residents, and the applicants must still wait their turn in line and meet all the requirements such as background checks.”

The fact is that we need to fix immigration law as it now exists, but we need to do so with respect for legal and illegal immigrants.

In his first encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est” (“God is Love”), Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that there is an intimate and unbreakable connection between love of God and love of neighbor. Because God has first loved us—completely and unconditionally—we are compelled to love one another. And in loving our neighbor, we meet the person of Christ.

Who is my neighbor? Not simply someone who is familiar and close at hand. Not simply someone who shares my ethnic, social or racial characteristics.

In the Gospels, we learn that our neighbor is anyone who is in need—including those who are homeless, hungry, sick or in prison. A neighbor might well be a complete stranger whose background, experience or social standing is very different from ours.

The Catholic vision is based on unity in diversity. Looking back on our history, there have been waves of immigrants that shaped the character of our nation and of local Churches.

As a Catholic community, we vigorously support our nation’s right and responsibility to provide secure borders for the protection of our people and to guard against those who would do us harm. At the same time, we reject positions or policies that are

anti-immigrant, nativist, ethnocentric or racist. Such narrow and destructive views are profoundly anti-Catholic and anti-American.

They oppose the principles of human dignity and freedom that are the foundation for our American way of life—a way of life that has historically been extended to all who have come to our shores seeking life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in a just and prosperous society.

Such divisive and exclusionary attitudes are also profoundly anti-Catholic because they deny the dignity of persons who are made in God’s image. They also contradict the essential unity and catholicity to which we are called as members of the one family of God.

Every member of the Catholic community in Indiana—regardless of his or her place of origin, ethnic or cultural heritage, economic or social position, or legal status—should be welcomed as Christ himself. The new immigrants remind us of our ancestral heritage as children of immigrants and of our baptismal heritage as members of the body of Christ.

On Jan. 22, 1999, in Mexico City, Pope John Paul II stood beneath the image of our Lady of Guadalupe and proclaimed a message of hope to all the peoples and nations of the Americas.

In his apostolic letter, “Ecclesia in America” (“The Church in America”), the late Holy Father spoke of the diverse gifts and talents of our people, the natural beauty and vast resources of our land, and the many distinctive cultures and traditions that have contributed to the way that life is lived in our great metropolitan centers, small towns and rural villages.

As members of one family, Pope John Paul reminded us that we are called to conversion, communion and solidarity as brothers and sisters in Christ.

I realize that this Catholic vision is difficult for some among us to embrace.

Yet, if we want to be consistent in our faith, we need to do so. †

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