In advocating on behalf of migrants, immigrants, and refugees, it is important to
understand that the Catholic position is based on Catholic social teaching, which is derived from the Gospels and the words of Christ; statements and encyclicals of the Popes; and statements and pastoral letters of bishops around the world, including the U.S. bishops. Understanding these teachings, which
support the U.S. bishops’ public policy positions on immigration, is helpful in understanding and defending these positions, especially within Catholic audiences.
As we welcome the stranger into our midst, we welcome Christ Himself, for in the face of the migrant, immigrant, and refugee, we must see the face of Christ. In the Gospel of Luke, this is made clear in the experience of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24: 13-15), as they become witnesses to the Truth by welcoming the stranger, who is Christ. (1)
The Justice for immigrants Campaign is grounded in the social teachings of the Church. The excerpts that follow enumerate the most relevant of Catholic Social Teachings on the issue of migration. Thus, these teachings not only guide the policy recommendations of Justice for Immigrants, they also inspire believers to love your neighbor as yourself.
These excerpts are from Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope, a joint statement from the Catholic Bishops of Mexico and the United States.
- All persons have the right to find in their own countries the economic, political, and social opportunities to live in dignity and achieve a full life through the use of their God-given gifts. In this context, work that provides a just, living wage is a basic human need. (Page 15, Paragraph 34)
- The Church recognizes the right of sovereign nations to control their territories but rejects such control when it is exerted merely for the purpose of acquiring additional wealth. More powerful economic nations, which have the ability to protect and feed their residents, have a stronger obligation to accommodate migration flows. (Page 15, Paragraph 36)
- The Church recognizes that all goods of the earth belong to all people. When persons cannot find employment in their country of origin to support themselves and their families, they have a right to find work elsewhere in order to survive. Sovereign nations should provide ways to accommodate this right. (Page 15, Paragraph 35)
- Those who flee wars and persecution should be protected by the global community. This requires, at a minimum, that migrants have a right to claim refugee status without incarceration and to have their claims fully considered by a competent authority. (Page 16, Paragraph 37)
- Regardless of their legal status, migrants, like all persons, possess inherent human dignity which should be respected. Government policies that respect the basic human rights of the undocumented are necessary. (Page 16, Paragraph 38)
The parish Beyond JustFaith Group has identified this issue as one deserving of prayerful deliberation and continuing education on their part.
It is also worth reiterating that the USCCB has, for many years, called for a comprehensive federal immigration program.
Closer to home on June 5, 2008 Cardinal DiNardo addressed the Greater Houston Partnership and spoke to the social aspects of immigration.
"The Old Testament or the Jewish Scriptures frankly present what the obstacles are of welcoming the stranger. They also frankly present why we must do so. We in the United States are a land blessed and have a strong heritage steeped in the immigration experience."
Cardinal DiNardo cited three rights that are key to any eventual solution.
First, persons have a right to find opportunity in their own homeland. "While we are dealing with our own country we should look at possibilities, public policy issues that address certain global inequalities."
Second, people have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families. "The vast majority of those who have come to this country, including immigrants--both legal and illegal--are here because they want to support their families. There is an essential economic need and in that they do have rights."
Third, soverign nations have a right to control their borders.
Cardinal Dinardo called for the United States to establish an immigration system that provides legal avenues for persons who enter this nation in a safe, orderly and dignified manner.
"The U.S. economy depends upon the labor provided by migrants," cardinal DiNardo said. "We nee a more humane system by which laborers from other countries can enter this country legally to fill positions in the labor force, including on a temporary basis."
A Prayer - For Immigrant Justice
Blessed are You, Lord God,
King of all creation.
Through Your goodness, we live in this land
that You have so richly blessed.
Help us always to recognize our
Blessings come from You
and remind us to share them
with others, especially those who come
to us today from other lands.
Help us to be generous, just, and welcoming,
as You have been and are generous to us.