Thursday, March 30, 2006

Another Episcopal Speaks out on Immigration has the viewpoint here

A taste:
Few among us would deny that today the present influx of immigrants presents a serious challenge. Since 1990 the number of undocumented persons in this country has almost tripled. The majority of these immigrants work in sectors vital to our economy -- agriculture, construction and services.

In 2003 in a pastoral letter, "Strangers No Longer, Together on the Journey of Hope," the bishops of the United States, with the bishops of Mexico, proposed a series of reforms for our immigration system. As bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, I join with my brother bishops in calling for the federal government to purpose and pass legislation which will reform our flawed and broken immigration system and meet the present challenge.

The reformation of such a complex system must be comprehensive in scope. It must seek to include: economic and social development to address the root causes that force people to migrate; development of an earned legalization program for the undocumented in our country; use of expanded legal means so families can be reunited; a temporary worker program which protects foreign and domestic workers, and restoration of due process for immigrants.

• • •

The Catholic Church supports the right of a sovereign nation to control its borders in order to ensure the common good, but such enforcement must include the protection of basic human rights and the dignity of the individual. The church does not support illegal immigration, not only because it is against the law but because society is not benefited by the presence of a large population living outside of the community, subject to abuse, exploitation and even death.

The church does advocate changing the law so that undocumented persons can obtain legal status in the United States and, in the best tradition of Americans, work to support their families. The U.S. bishops endorse the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act of 2005 (S.1033, H.R. 2330) which contains many of the principles outlined by the bishops. We strongly oppose the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Protection Act of 2005 ( H.R. 4437) which is so broadly written that it could criminalize even minor acts of mercy.

The Catholic Church, through Catholic Charities, is one of the largest not-for- profit institutions in our nation which gives assistance to the poor, the disenfranchised, the vulnerable, citizen and immigrant alike. Providing humanitarian assistance to those in need is our Gospel mandate and it must not be made a crime.

Catholic social teaching is based on Holy Scripture and Catholic writings from popes and bishops conferences beginning with the encyclical Rerum Novarum of Pope Leo XIII, published in 1891 at another time of increased immigration. The principles of these teachings on social justice can be summarized into five basic principles which apply to migration: 1) persons have the right to find opportunities in their homeland, 2) persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families, 3) sovereign nations have the right to control their borders, 4) refugees and asylum seekers should be afforded protection, and 5) the human dignity and human rights of undocumented immigrants should be respected.
Bishop Gossman offers the prudent counsel that Reasonable and Foolable extremists on either plank of the debate will find grossly inadequate and offensive. The isolationists will demand that the US raise the shields against the hordes swarming the southern border. The Reconquistadores will demand an immediate surrender by Washington of the US Southwest. Neither side speaks for the people most affected by the current dysfunctional immigration policy: immigrants themselves, legal and otherwise.

My Blushing Bride and her family legally immigrated here from Portugal over twenty years ago. My Sister-in-law, who like my bride is now a citizen, bristles whenever an illegal immigrant co-worker brags to her about how easily she has manipulated benefits out of the government. She is deeply offended by the woman's brazen disregard for the land she now calls home.

Until the US creates a sensible immigration policy, the passions and injustice fomented by the current system will continue to rupture our unity. Communities will crack under the strain. Trust will pour out of the electorate like sweat off an Olympic sprinter. Our collective refusal to deal with the problem sows the seeds of our society's own coming crack-up.

Bishop Gossman's articulation of the relevent Catholic Social Teaching principles offers us an alternative. Will we take it?