Immigration Reform is a moral issue, a justice issue and a people issue. Sadly, it has become in the eyes of many a political issue eclipsing the moral, justice and people dimensions.
The Catholic Church is not a Johnny-come-lately when it comes to immigration reform. For more than eighty years Catholic bishops in the United States have come out in support of immigrants and called for more just immigration laws.
Recent draconian laws enacted in Arizona have further politicized the issue and are strongly opposed by Catholic Bishops in America. The action by the Arizona legislature and governor occurred because of the lack of federal leadership on the immigration issue.
For the Bishops this is not a political issue, it is a moral, justice and people issue. Our position as Catholic Bishops is clear. Immigration reform must include a viable path to permanent residency for the undocumented population; a new worker program that includes appropriate worker protections, wage levels and an opportunity to earn permanent residency; reductions in family reunification backlogs, the restoration of due process protections lost in the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, and very importantly, policies that address the root causes of migration, such as economic development in sending countries.
Time and again the Bishops have brought these issues before Congress and in 2005 I personally called on President Bush and Congress to act swiftly on legislation that was comprehensive and humane.
John’s gospel reminds us of Jesus’ command to “love one another as I have loved you.” (15:12) Jesus echoes in the Last Judgment in Matthew (25:31-40) Moses’ command to the Isrealites to “love the stranger for you were strangers in the land of Egypt,” particularly appropriate since we, or our ancestors, were once the aliens in a strange land.
I call upon and urge all Catholics to support the bishops of the United States in our efforts to have lawmakers work together to change our flawed immigration system.