It’s time to fix the real immigration problem

| Bishop Andrew Cozzens | March 23, 2017

I recently visited the home of local Catholics, Jose and Isabel. Nearly 20 years ago, the couple left Mexico and came to the United States because there was no future for them in their hometown. They would have sought regular work visas to come to the U.S. legally if that possibility had been offered to them. Coming illegally was risky, but a real life was worth it. They both found good jobs and have been working more than full-time and paying taxes since they arrived. They got married in their Catholic parish, and they have three children who are U.S. citizens. Both are actively involved in ministries in their parish and sacrifice to pay what they can so that their children can attend Catholic school. They both speak English, and neither has a criminal record.

Hearing about recent immigration arrests, they live in fear, and they recently asked their parish priest, “If we get deported, will you make sure our children are cared for?”

As Jose and Isabel’s story illustrates, immigration is a complex issue. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops does not, contrary to what some say, support “open borders.” We recognize that every country has the right and responsibility to control its borders. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions” (2241). These responsibilities to control immigration must be balanced by other essential humanitarian values. That is, the United States, as one of the wealthiest countries on earth, has a responsibility to do what it can to help those who are less fortunate. The Catechism also states, “The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him” (CCC 2241). This is because every person has equal dignity before God regardless of where they were born.

For at least 20 years, our system has been broken while our government has looked the other way because business demands cheap labor. Why are we only punishing those who came illegally? Why don’t we punish the businesses that hired them or the government officials who let this happen?

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles recently said that, “There is plenty of blame to go around. And that means there is plenty of opportunity to show mercy.” He added: “Mercy is not the denial of justice. Mercy is the quality by which we carry out our justice.” He does not propose that we “forgive and forget” that the law has been broken, but rather that we have reasonable consequences that also provide reasonable solutions.

Deporting law-abiding, family-raising U.S. residents like Jose and Isabel is not justice. It certainly will not lower crime rates if there are children without their parents present to raise them. Fixing our immigration system needs to be done comprehensively, beyond enforcement. It should be done based on our country’s founding principles: keeping families together and providing opportunity for those who have proven to be good citizens. If we want to fix our system in the right way, we could require the undocumented immigrants to pay a fine or do community service. They could also demonstrate that they are holding a job, paying taxes and learning English.

Recent immigration enforcement actions here in the Twin Cities and around the country are a test for all Americans, especially for us as Catholics. Many of these immigrants sit in our pews on Sunday morning and share the same dreams of raising their children. All of them share our human dignity and deserve basic human rights. Will we be true to Jesus’ words: “Whatever you do to the least, you do to me”?

Es hora de componer el problema migratorio real

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