WASHINGTON (CNS) — In early May, after the archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, made a statement about an executive order dealing with immigration, he seems to have received more than a few unhappy responses.
“A few wrote to me to say, among other things, that they are dismayed at my apparent lack of respect for our immigration laws,” said Archbishop John C. Wester in a May post on the archdiocese’s website titled “Laws are meant to protect human beings, not break them.”
Sometimes people say, “What don’t you understand about illegal?” he continued. He said he also has heard others talk about “those illegals.”
But “it is important to establish that no human being is ‘illegal,'” he wrote, and “how we refer to one another makes a difference.”
At the national and local level, church leaders have been trying to comfort immigrant Catholic communities, while at the same time responding to criticism from other Catholics about their outreach to immigrants.
“The issue of immigration continues to raise controversy at both the national and state level, often spurring passionate debate that offers little hope for reconciliation and resolution,” said a May 30 statement from the Maryland Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the Baltimore and Washington archdioceses and the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware.
The statement urged Catholics and “all people of faith and goodwill to come together in a spirit of compassion, prudence, and cooperation to address the challenges faced by immigrants, elected officials, law enforcement and our communities as a whole.”
The Maryland conference statement asked local elected officials and lawmakers to “respect the spirit of our country’s Fourth Amendment protection against apprehension and searches of persons or homes without probable cause,” and to prioritize “the integrity of families and the ability of working parents to support and care for their children.” It also asked Catholics and others to respect differences of opinion, to listen and not resort to name-calling, “nor to allow partisan and hyperbolic factions to dominate the political debate on immigration.”
Archbishop Wester, whose archdiocese May 25 issued a memo to employees on what to do if federal immigration officials show up to carry out a raid or other activities on church property, urged others “not to be taken in by political sound bites or rhetoric that instills fear. Rather, let us take the time to hear the stories of those immigrants coming to our shores and borders.”
He said that while he respects immigration laws, it’s fair to say that the country’s “immigration system of laws is broken and completely inadequate to deal with the immigration reality we face in our country and in our world.”
That’s why the Catholic bishops of the United States have been advocating for immigration reform, he said, but “labeling people ‘illegals’ who are here without proper documentation dehumanizes immigrants,” he said.
Similarly, the Maryland conference statement urged others to learn about the root causes of immigration, the challenges immigrants face in navigating the country’s complex immigration system, and to develop relationships with immigrants and learn about their “hopes and dreams, fears and sorrows.”
Archbishop Wester said in his post that he respects immigration laws “in principle, even though they are terribly flawed just now.”
“However, at the same time,” he continued, “I am obliged by my conscience to welcome the strangers in our midst, particularly if they are fleeing economic, political or religious persecution or if they are sure to become victims of violent and organized crime. To simply call some of them ‘illegals’ does not do justice to the ethical and human reality of their situation.”
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When the pope visited, I didn’t see him being concerned with giving compassion to US Citizens who are poor, uneducated, who have lost their jobs to Illegal Aliens. This effect was warned about in 1965:
“In light of our 5 percent unemployment rate, our worries over the so called population explosion, and our menacingly mounting welfare costs, are we prepared to embrace so great a horde of the world’s unfortunates? At the very least, the hidden mathematics of the bill should be made clear to the public so that they may tell their Congressmen how they feel about providing jobs, schools, homes, security against want, citizen education, and a brotherly welcome… for an indeterminately enormous number of aliens from underprivileged lands.” “We should remember that people accustomed to such marginal existence in their own land will tend to live fully here, to hoard our bounteous minimum wages and our humanitarian welfare handouts…lower our wage and living standards, disrupt our cultural patterns.” Myra C. Hacker, Vice President of the New Jersey Coalition of Patriotic Societies, on the 1965 Hart Celler Act
“Whatever may be our benevolent intent toward many people, the bill fails to give due consideration to the economic needs, the cultural traditions, and the public sentiment of the citizens of the United States.” Myra C. Hacker, on the 1965 Hart Celler Act
Also, isn’t it interesting that the catholic church is one of the largest recipient of financial “donations” in the world? If the pope is so concerned for these migrants, then why doesn’t he exhort those countries (including his native Argentina) to take care of their citizens in need?