State’s bishops call for immigration reform that protects rights and families

| April 11, 2012 | 2 Comments

Concerned about an “inconsistent, ineffective” U.S. immigration system and inadequate state-level attempts at reform, Minnesota’s Catholic bishops are calling for comprehensive immigration reform on the federal level that protects basic human rights and keeps families together.

Such reform, they noted, will require changing hearts as well as laws.

“We recognize that finding solutions to the plight of immigrants today will sometimes necessitate the overcoming of boundaries in the heart, not just on the land,” according to the approximately 1,300-word statement, “Unlocking the Gate in Our Hearts.”

“At some point, however, we must reach out to human persons in need, and the demands of our common human nature compel us to open a gate in the wall, so that what human dignity demands is not denied to a sister or brother,” it says. “But before a gate finds its way into the walls outside, there must be a gate that opens in the heart.”

The statement is posted on the website of the Minnesota Catholic Conference and will be available soon in printed form in both English and Spanish.

State reforms inadequate

Minnesota’s bishops last released a statement on immigration in 2010. Jason Adkins, MCC executive director, said the new statement is particularly important at a time when federal reform efforts continue to be lacking and several states — most prominently Arizona and Alabama — have tried to address the problem by enacting their own policies. Minnesota has been considering similar enforcement measures.

“We wanted to point out again that these state-based solutions, which focus on enforcement and divide families are not prudent policies,” Adkins said. “We need to be resisting those policies because they impede actual solutions at the federal level. And, the federal level is the proper level to address these problems.

“Furthermore, as we’ve seen in both Alabama and Arizona, these [state bills] greatly threaten religious freedom,” he added. “Those bills make it a crime to harbor illegal immigrants. This directly challenges the church’s mission to serve all those in need, and the church has always been at the forefront of serving the needs of undocumented workers. So this is a threat not only to the human dignity of undocumented workers and those coming into our country, it’s also a threat to our religious mission as well.”While recognizing a nation’s right to secure its borders, regulate immigrant numbers and consider immigration’s impact on both the economy and national security, the bishops’ statement also says that economic hardship or persecution often compels people to seek basic necessities and a “dignified existence” in another country.

“The human right to life — the foundation of every other right — implies the right to emigrate,” they write.

Federal reform, the statement says, should include an earned legalization program for foreign nationals of good moral character, policies that keep families together, a revamped temporary worker program, restoration of immigrants’ due process rights, and an effort to address the root causes of migration in the countries from which migrants come.

Visit the MCC’s web page at and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Justice for Immigrants ­website.

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