Immigration reform shouldn’t be a political football or a contentious issue, but it is.
Since we’re all the descendants of immigrants — all but those of us born of Native American blood — we should understand that people who come here to work, to make a better life, also want a path to citizenship. They want, one day, to stand before a federal judge, put their right hand in the air and take the oath to become a citizen of this country.
The simple truth of the matter is that immigrant reform is needed. We need to do the right thing for immigrants who lack legal status and for those for whom every document, every paper, is just fine and dandy. We need to do the right thing for all of them.
And on this issue — doing the right thing for immigrants — the Catholic Church is leading the way. We should all be proud.
Next month at the annual hootin’ and hollerin’ political picnic called Fancy Farm, in addition to the hyperbolic politicians, the Catholic Conference of Kentucky will be there to welcome all who want to urge support for comprehensive immigration reform.
According to a press release from Father Patrick Delahanty, executive director of the CCK, and his staff, the conference will have “information to handout and materials available so you can make a sign and carry it throughout the day on the grounds of the event. (Those grounds are on property owned by St. Jerome Church in Fancy Farm, Ky.)
In the release, Father Delahanty notes that the political speeches will begin at 2 p.m. (Central time) and he’s hoping that as Senators Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul and state and local politicians take to the stump, they’ll look out on a crowd filled with signs supporting immigration reform.
Such support would certainly be in keeping with the position of the church.
Earlier this month, Bishop David M. O’Connell of Trenton N.J. called for Catholics to “put aside any partisan differences” they might have on the immigration issue and come together to pray for the welfare of their brother and sister immigrants. He also called for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, calling it a “moral imperative that goes beyond politics.”
The bishop said that comprehensive immigration reform “is not Washington’s problem. It is a concern for all citizens of our country as well as those who hope to be, much as it was for our ancestors who arrived here with hopes and dreams for a better life.” Then he reminded people of the words of the Pledge of Allegiance — “Under God, with liberty and justice for all.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a July 28 bulletin titled “Now is the Time for Immigration Reform: Myth and Fact,” quantified many of the reasons reform is needed.
“There are many myths about immigrants and immigration,” said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, Chair of the bishop’s Committee on Migration and Refugees. He was speaking in the bulletin and noted that one myth “involves the perception that immigrants are taking away jobs from U.S. citizens. “Here are some facts about the situation,” he said:
- With immigration reform, newly authorized immigrants would produce enough new consumer spending to support 750,000 to 900,000 new jobs.
- Every low-skilled, non-agricultural, temporary worker who comes to the U.S. to fill a job that may otherwise be left open creates an average of 4.64 U.S. jobs. Low-skilled jobs support the high-skilled jobs.
In fact, U.S. Department of Labor statistics have shown, year after year, that immigrant laborers are filling jobs that U.S. citizens don’t want.
But jobs aside, statistics aside and political arguments aside, Pope Francis has time and again identified the true reason for the need to treat immigrants the world over with justice and fairness. God and the Gospels tell us it is simply the right thing to do.
The pope was so moved by the story of African immigrants drowning as they overloaded boats in a desperate voyage to get to Italy — and perhaps a better life.
The deaths of immigrants everywhere, the pope said, are “like a thorn in the heart,” which has spurred him to try to awaken people’s consciences about the issue.
“Who is responsible for the blood of these brothers and sisters of ours,” the pope asked during a homily on the Italian island of Lampedusa. “All of us respond: ‘It wasn’t me. I have nothing to do with it.’ Maybe we think, ‘Oh, poor soul,’ but we continue on our way.”
A culture of well being, the pope said, “leads us to think only of ourselves, (and) makes us insensitive to the cries of others.”
Immigration reform would be a giant step toward helping us hear those lamentations.