Skip to comments.Gathering calls for 'fair and humane' immigration policies [Catholic Bishops on immigration reform]
Posted on 07/31/2008 10:09:12 AM PDT by Alex Murphy
After the collapse of efforts to pass a national immigration reform bill last summer, more than 850 Catholic activists and service providers who work with immigrants have gathered in Washington, D.C., this week to call for what one American cardinal described as a more fair and humane system.
The July 28-31 conference, sponsored by the U.S. bishops and titled Renewing Hope, Seeking Justice, heralds a major push from the church on immigration heading into the 2008 elections.
This is an important moment, said Kevin Appleby, director of the U.S. bishops Office of Migration and Refugee Policy. America could become more restrictive, belying our history as nation of immigrants.
Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, who delivered a Monday keynote address, said the hallmarks of the fair and humane approach sought by the Catholic church include keeping families together, providing a path to legal status for immigrants, and promoting economic and social development in sending nations so people dont feel compelled to migrate.
The church is going to make immigration a major issue in 08, Mahony told NCR.
A subsidiary motive for the conference, according to Donald Kerwin of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, is to offer moral support during what Kerwin described as a very difficult time for pro-immigrant voices in America.
Theres a well-organized, well-funded group out there that will be sure to inundate your offices with calls, e-mails, and nasty letters mischaracterizing what you do, Kerwin said in a telephone interview.
One sign of the times came on Monday, when Bishop Jaime Soto, the coadjutor bishop of Sacramento and national chair of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, appeared on CNNs Lou Dobbs show. At least five times in the lead-in to the segment, host Kitty Pilgrim, filling in that night for Dobbs, described the churchs position on immigration as an amnesty agenda a label both Soto and Kerwin deny.
Thats totally inaccurate, Kerwin said. Were in favor of voluntary, legal immigration. We know how harmful illegal immigration is, especially for the people who are forced into it.
In a telephone interview with NCR, Soto said those who know the realities facing the estimated 38 million people in America who are foreign-born are frustrated not only by stalled legislation, but also by what they see as increasingly punitive enforcement actions. Soto pointed to a recent raid on a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, said to be the largest such raid in American history, which detained 390 illegal immigrants.
While Soto said the bishops accept the need to enforce the law, such raids often drive families apart, he said, and punish some of the most courageous and hard-working members of our community.
These may be tough times in the broader culture, but Catholic activists can take comfort from the strong show of episcopal support for immigration reform this week. In addition to Mahony, Cardinals Edward Egan of New York and the emeritus Cardinal of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, spoke at the July 28-31 conference, and Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Refugees, is on hand to offer Vatican backing.
The bishops have been prophetic on these issues, Kerwin said. Theyve given us immense amounts of support and cover, often at great expense in terms of the hostile reactions theyve received.
Observers say that opinion at the Catholic grassroots, on the other hand, is more divided. The U.S. bishops are currently planning to commission a poll of Catholic attitudes on immigration, but scattered indications suggest that Catholics arent much different from the general public.
In 2004, for example, voters in Arizona adopted a measure requiring proof of citizenship before anyone can register to vote or apply for public benefits. The proposition passed by 56 percent to 44, and exit polls suggest that margin included 55 percent of Arizona Catholics.
Theres a large percentage of Catholics who need to go through a conversion process with regard to immigration, said Martin Gutierrez of Catholic Charities in New Orleans. Guttierez said many Catholics share negative perceptions of the broader culture, such as that immigrants take jobs away from American citizens, or that they dont want to learn English or to integrate into American society all of which, he said, is largely false.
Soto conceded the point.
Many Catholics have been persuaded by the more visceral arguments against immigrants offered in the media and by some politicians, he said.
Soto expressed confidence that education can bring Catholics around, beginning with reflection on what the church is doing on the ground to welcome new arrivals.
Theres a popular saying that you should practice what you preach. I agree with that, but I also think theres a certain virtue in preaching what we practice, Soto said.
The Catholic community has been very successful in integrating and assimilating large immigrant and refugee communities. We are a counter-point to the fear and anxiety the broader society often feels, he said. We havent stopped serving immigrants and refugees in our social service agencies or in our hospitals, and people understand the reasons why we do that.
The virtue of our practice can help to deflect some of the more poisoned polemic thats out there, Soto said.
Participants in the Renewing Hope, Seeking Justice conference spent much of Wednesday on Capitol Hill knocking on congressional doors. Celine Kennelly of the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center in San Francisco, who met with members of the California delegation, said that lawmakers and their staffs expressed a particular interest in the human dimension of current policies.
Its the human story, human needs, human dignity and human rights, and our testimony about the kinds of cases we deal with that caught their attention, Kennelly told NCR.
For the moment, Kennelly said, pro-immigration lawmakers are focusing on smaller measures, such as a bill to assist the spouses of U.S. military personnel who are facing deportation procedures. The fate of comprehensive reform, Kennelly said legislators told her, will depend upon how the elections go and where the majority lies in the next congress.
There ARE fair and humane procedures for immigrating here. Tens of millions of people have used these procedures so far. Why insist on rewarding those millions who refused to follow those fair and humane procedures?
Again, follow the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
These are not Muslims invading us from down South, they are....(drum roll please)......................
Just like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, both illegal aline supporters gain cash in their coffers...the Church pays NO TAXES and the corporations gain new customers that they didn’t have before...
McAmnesty needs to step up and realize most of the Latinos are voting for Obama anyway...despite his knee-pad pandering.
He needs to close the border and deport, now.
The slander that the Church is supporting open borders because of money is stupid and bigoted.
It is my contention that the United States should follow the example of the Church and institute immigration policies identical to those of the Vatican.
Alex, you are on a roll.
Let’s see, Republicans want illegals here for cheap labor.
Democrats want them hear for voting rolls.
The Catholic Church must be behind this.
Kind of like how Algore is vested in saving the Earth from Global Warming while pocketing billions in his carbon credit business? It just fits too neatly for me.
The Catholic Church, to me, means nothing. Who pays BILLIONS for molesting children in THOUSANDS of cases and calls themselves “with God”.
Joke...the Pope, to a Protestant, is just another preacher.
He is no closer to God than I am.
Peace be with you.
I was unaware that voting in the elections of nations of which one is not a citizen was a basic human right.
Now . . . who'll I vote for in Ireland?
Well yeah, but look on the bright side. They can always be counted on to issue statements condemning the evils of "Biblical literalism!" ;-)
The Catholic bishops don’t support open borders because they are capitalists, and only a fool would believe that.
They support open borders because they are naive socialists, and they would support open borders even if the Mexicans were Mohammedans.
It’s one thing to realize that they are wrong, it’s another to ignore their faulty reasoning and substitute another based upon one’s blind bigotry
I guess religion is not a point to argue.
There are no winners, just tax-free status and the desire to help people.
You don't speak for all protestants, only for yourself and not very well at that.
The Pope is the successor of St. Peter. Do you have any idea how many popes are now saints?
Please educate yourself before making such blanket statements.
Don’t really care, actually.
I think my opinion is right on.
Not hard to believe, actually.
I can live with all of the above, IF the "path to legal status" is NOT a "path to citizenship". The privilege of American citizenship should be reserved only to native born and LEGALLY immigrated individuals.
This should be a new "permanent resident" category, which specifically EXCLUDES any possibility of obtaining citizenship, and EXCLUDES the "chain immigration" of any family members except non-native born children.
As I see it---the above constitutes all that is necessary to fulfill Catholic "social justice" mandates.