Thursday, November 18, 2010


The U.S. Bishops on immigration, including illegal immigration, from 10 years ago:

Welcoming the Stranger Among Us

A few highlights I would like to point out:

The ultimate resolution of the problems associated with forced migration and illegal immigration lies in changing the conditions that drive persons from their countries of origin. Accordingly, we urge the governments of the world, particularly our own government, to promote a just peace in those countries that are at war, to protect human rights in those countries that deny them, and to foster the economic development of those countries that are unable to provide for their own peoples. We also urge the governments of the "receiving" countries to welcome these immigrants, to provide for their immediate needs, and to enable them to come to self-sufficiency as quickly as possible.

We must never forget that many immigrants come to this country in desperate circumstances.

As Pope John Paul II has noted, "In many regions of the world today people live in tragic situations of instability and uncertainty. It does not come as a surprise that in such contexts the poor and the destitute make plans to escape, to seek a new land that can offer them bread, dignity and peace. This is the migration of the desperate. . . . Unfortunately, the reality they find in host nations is frequently a source of further disappointment

One reality remains constant in the American experience of immigration: the demand of the U.S. economy for unskilled labor—and the corresponding entrance of immigrants seeking work—in labor-intensive industries such as agriculture, construction, food processing, and services. Undocumented immigrants face special hardships in such areas. The Immigration and Naturalization Service estimates that three to four million undocumented workers hold jobs in this country, many of which are poorly paid, insecure, and dangerous.

They face discrimination in the workplace and on the streets, the constant threat of arrest and deportation, and the fear that they or their children will be denied medical care, education, or job opportunities. Many have lived in the United States for years, establishing roots in their communities, building their families, paying taxes, and contributing to the economy. If arrested and deported, they leave behind children and sometimes spouses who are American citizens.

While the changes in the law over the last several years have enabled many in this situation to adjust their status to that of permanent resident, the 1996 immigration legislation made this option more difficult for the vast majority. Without condoning undocumented migration, the Church supports the human rights of all people and offers them pastoral care, education, and social services, no matter what the circumstances of entry into this country, and it works for the respect of the human dignity of all—especially those who find themselves in desperate circumstances. We recognize that nations have the right to control their borders. We also recognize and strongly assert that all human persons, created as they are in the image of God, possess a fundamental dignity that gives rise to a more compelling claim to the conditions worthy of human life.

Accordingly, the Church also advocates legalization opportunities for the maximum number of undocumented persons, particularly those who have built equities and otherwise contributed to their communities.

My commentary:

It often irks me that so many well meaning conservatives, including good Catholics, are very against illegal immigration, thinking of them as job-stealers and welfare usurpers as well as believing they should be forced to assimilate and "learn our language" if they want to live here. These views often contrast starkly with upholding the dignity of the person, especially when they are referred to as "aliens." It is clear our immigration policy needs to be fixed, and no we can't just open up our borders to all who want to live here. For safety and stability it is necessary to have a well organized and documented process, but to think of our fellow men as "aliens" and treat them as such is not christian. The U.S. Bishops are clear on this in their letter from 10 years ago. Upholding the dignity and welfare of persons should be our aim with any policy, something we have not done so well on with our own citizens, let alone illegal immigrants.

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