Catholic leaders around the country continue to take the lead on legalization for undocumented immigrants.
We recently reported on the Bishop of Little Rock, Arkansas, Anthony B. Taylor asking Arkansas Catholics to welcome immigrants rather than reject them. Now, Minnesota’s Catholic leaders have declared Jan. 4 “Immigration Sunday,” and will use the occasion to transmit the same message to the state’s faithful.
“We, the Roman Catholic Bishops of Minnesota, want to share our hope for: newcomers journeying in search of greater opportunities for themselves and their families; communities enriched by the many contributions of newcomers; and advocates working for justice and reform,” the six bishops in the Minnesota Catholic Conference said in a statement released on Dec. 12, the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron, and the second anniversary of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid on a meatpacking plant in Worthington, Minn.
While we recognize our nation’s right to maintain secure borders, we oppose policies and practices that separate families and fuel suspicion, fear, intimidation, hatred and violence. Echoing our brother bishops across the country, we renew our call for comprehensive immigration reform and strategies to reduce global poverty.
Just and equitable immigration policy, based on the principles of Catholic social teaching, would: recognize the inherent dignity of every human being; seek to reunite, stabilize and strengthen families; ease the path to citizenship for our undocumented sisters and brothers who are living in the United States; provide access to basic necessities; embody due process protections; and reflect an awareness of the social, political and economic causes of migration.
[You can download the statement by clicking here.]
Catholic bishops in the U.S. “have long endorsed a path to citizenship for undocumented persons that would include requirements to register with the government and to learn English,” the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) stated in a November news release. The Conference noted that over 60 percent of U.S. Catholics supported a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants: 69 percent are in favor of the measure if immigrants are required to register with the government; and 62 percent approve of it if they are asked to learn English.
Support for comprehensive immigration reform from church leaders is becoming manifest throughout the country.
– In Iowa, the state’s Catholic Conference called on church members “to reflect on whether the immigration raid in Postville (earlier this year) was consistent with American democracy and rendering of justice.” The bishops also asked Catholics to support reform of the federal immigration system.
– In Georgia, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory has shown Hispanics “he is with us,” Hispanic priests told Catholic newspaper The Georgia Bulletin. Gregory “has been very strong and very clear about his advocacy for what the USCCB supports on the immigration issue, which is comprehensive immigration reform and affirming the dignity of all legal and illegal immigrants,” said Father Fabio Sotelo-Peña of Gainesville’s St. Michael Church.
– In Utah, the head of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake, Rev. John C. Wester asked state legislators to delay the start of a controversial immigration law which will go into effect in the summer. The Salt Lake Tribune reported,
A Utah law, SB81, passed earlier this year with substantial margins in both houses, is helping to create a “climate of fear” among undocumented immigrants and should be delayed beyond its July start, Wester, who leads Utah’s 200,000 Catholics, said Tuesday.
“My fear is that SB81 is going to push [undocumented immigrants] into the shadows and they are not going to be comfortable coming forward to report crime or to get the help that they need,” Wester said at a Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Salt Lake City.