January 10, 2020


A Church and a world for all

Each year, for nearly half a century, the U.S. Catholic bishops have designated the first full week in January as National Migration Week. As the bishops state, this “is an opportunity for the Church to reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants, including immigrants, refugees, children, and victims and survivors of human trafficking.”

The theme for National Migration Week 2020 is “Promoting a Church and a World for All.” The bishops want to draw attention to the fact that “each of our families has a migration story, some recent and others in the distant past. Regardless of where we are and where we came from, we remain part of the human family and are called to live in solidarity with one another.”

It’s unfortunate that immigration has become a divisive situation in the United States. Whereas, throughout our history, we were a welcoming country for refugees escaping persecution, that is no longer the case so far as the present administration in concerned. President Donald J. Trump has asked for more restrictions on immigrants of all kinds—even the deportation of people who were brought here as children, illegally, but know no other place to go and are now contributing to our economy.

The fact is that our economy badly needs more immigrants. Companies of all types are having trouble getting enough employees. Some immigrants come to work to support their families, but are unable to get a work visa because in our broken immigration system the number of visas for low-wage workers cannot match demand for such workers. As a result, as many as 300,000 undocumented people each year are absorbed into the U.S. workforce.

Some people oppose immigration because they believe that immigrants are getting a free ride in this country by taking advantage of welfare laws. But immigrants pay taxes. Undocumented immigrants pay sales taxes. They also pay property taxes, directly if they own their homes and indirectly if they rent. Between one half and three quarters of undocumented immigrants pay state and federal taxes. In fact, estimates state that undocumented immigrants pay an estimated $11.64 billion every year in state and local taxes.

Our immigration laws badly need reforming because now they keep out those whom we badly need.

Yes, every country has the right to control its borders. In fact, we must take every step necessary to protect our citizens from criminals trying to enter. But studies show that immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans. 

Immigrants would love to be able to come into the United States legally, but our present laws prevent that. Depending on the country of origin, family members of U.S. citizens often have to wait for more than a decade before their visas are processed and for family reunification to occur.

That is quite unlike most of us whose ancestors arrived in this country before there were restrictions. They weren’t always welcomed by others (for example, the “no Irish need apply” signs), but they were not kept out by government restrictions.

Our immigration laws are also racist. President Trump has said that he’d be glad to have more people here from Denmark, but not those from other countries that he considers inferior.

If, under the present administration, it’s impossible to expect more just immigration policies, we can at least treat our immigrants better. That’s what the bishops tell us to do.

Their statement says, “Unfortunately, in our contemporary culture we often fail to encounter migrants as persons, and instead look at them as unknown others, if we even notice them at all. We do not take the time to engage migrants in a meaningful way, as fellow children of God, but remain aloof to their presence and suspicious or fearful of them. During this National Migration Week, let us all take the opportunity to engage migrants as community members, neighbors, and friends.”

—John F. Fink

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