Immigration reform through a Gospel lens

| January 2, 2014 | 0 Comments

Each year, Minnesota’s bishops designate a Sunday in January, typically the feast of the Epiphany, as Immigration Sunday. This year’s observance on Jan. 5 affords an opportunity to learn more about what the Church teaches on immigration and the challenges that today’s newcomers face as they seek to start a new life for themselves and their families.

It’s also a chance to learn more about how we Catholics can help to fix a federal immigration system that people on both sides of the political spectrum agree is broken and in need of reform. While Congress has been debating the issue for several years, it has failed so far to pass a comprehensive proposal that promotes the common good and is fair to all.

What principles should guide such reform?

That’s where the Epiphany story comes in: The arrival in Bethlehem of the gift-bearing Magi from the East is an acknowledgment that Jesus was born to bring salvation not just to certain people, but all people. As the Minnesota Catholic Conference notes on its website: “On this day we are reminded that all human beings — regardless of ethnicity, nationality, race, creed or status — are ‘coheirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus’ (Ephesians 3:6). This includes newcomers to our country and state.”

Epiphany comes just one week after the feast of the Holy Family with its Gospel reading of how Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt with their newborn son to escape the threat posed by King Herod, making the Holy Family refugees in a foreign land.

Much like Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus, many of today’s immigrants — including the approximately 12 million who are undocumented — are likewise seeking to escape persecution and oppression. Or they are leaving behind situations of extreme poverty. They want to keep their families together and contribute positively to their new communities.

But, too often, today’s immigration system doesn’t allow them to do that. It doesn’t always respect their human rights or their dignity. Too often, current laws and policies break apart families. And, too often, unethical employers take advantage of the system to exploit immigrant workers.

Epiphany encourages us to recognize that everyone is part of the family of God, including strangers in need — much as the young Jesus and his family once were in need. And, as Americans, we also must remember our nation’s proud history of welcoming immigrants, many of whom form the roots of our own family trees.

Comprehensive immigration reform should include an orderly process for keeping our borders safe and secure. At the same time, it should create a path to citizenship for undocumented workers of good moral character, prioritize family unification and respect basic human rights.

Immigration Sunday offers the chance to learn more about the plight of immigrants and how we, as Catholics, can work to be part of the solution, which has been too long in coming. You can find many helpful resources on the Minnesota Catholic Conference’s website at mncc.org.

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Category: Editorials