“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
This past weekend the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced that they support President Obama’s pledge to take executive action on immigration reform. This should not be a surprise because the Church has deeply supported immigration reform for many years. As a Catholic you might get a lot of questions about why the Church supports immigration reform. To answer properly please take some time to understand the stance of the USCCB and the Church on immigration reform.
Do the U.S. bishops oppose any immigration legislation which has been introduced in Congress?
Yes. The U.S. bishops strongly oppose H.R. 4437, the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Protection Act of 2005, introduced by Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Representative Peter King (R-NY). H.R. 4437 passed the House of Representatives 239-182 on December 16, 2005. The legislation includes many harsh provisions which would bring undue harm to immigrants and their families.
Why is the Catholic Church involved in the immigration issue?
The Scriptures as well as Catholic Social Teaching, form the basis of the Church position. In Matthew, Jesus calls upon us to “welcome the stranger,” for “what you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me” (Mt: 25-35, 40). Also, the U.S. bishops believe that our current immigration system contributes to the human suffering of migrants and they have a duty to point out the moral consequences of a broken system.
Does the Catholic Church believe in “open borders?”
No, Church teaching supports the right sovereign nations to control their borders. Enforcement of our borders, however, should include the protection of human rights and dignity of the migrant and not place lives at risk.
Does the Catholic Church support illegal immigration?
No. The Catholic Church does not support or encourage illegal immigration because 1) it is contrary to federal law and 2) it is not good either for society because of the presence of a large population living outside the legal structures or the migrant, who is subjected to abuse, exploitation, and death in the desert. Instead, the Church is advocating changing a broken law so that undocumented persons can obtain legal status in our country and enter the United States legally to work and support their families.
What about public resources? Does increased immigration place stress on public resources?
First of all, federal law bars undocumented immigrants from receiving any means-tested benefits and the large majority of legal immigrants are barred from such benefits for five years after their arrival. Undocumented immigrants are eligible for educational services for children and emergency health-care services. Studies find that after an immigrant works for a year there is a net benefit to the state and national economy because of taxes, Social Security taxes, and the “sweat equity” that immigrants contribute to the economy. Foreign workers and their families also contribute to the economy through their purchasing power, which adds billions to the economy each year.
For more information on the Church’s beliefs about immigration please visit: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/immigration/