Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan has criticized Arizona legislation targeting illegal immigrants as “mean-spirited” and “counterproductive and harmful.” Viewing the measure as a manifestation of historic American nativism, he said immigrants should be welcomed and their legalization and citizenship should be advanced.
Writing in an April 27 entry on his blog “The Gospel in the Digital Age,” Archbishop Dolan said at times of social turmoil the immigrant “unfailingly becomes the scapegoat.”
He then listed what he described as “periodic spasms” of anti-immigrant “fever”: the Nativists of the 1840s who led mobs to torch Irish homes and Catholic churches; the Know-Nothings of the 1850s; the American Protective Association of the late 19th century who feared the arrival of immigrants from Italy, Poland, and Germany; the Ku Klux Klan who fomented hate against blacks, Jews, Catholics and foreigners; and the eugenics movement.
He also listed the Protestants and Other Americans United group of the 1950s who were “apprehensive about Catholic immigrants and their grandkids upsetting the religious and cultural concord of America.”
“And, here we go again!” Archbishop Dolan continued. “Arizona is so scared, apparently, and so convinced that the #1 threat to society today is the immigrant that it has passed a mean-spirited bill of doubtful constitutionality that has as its intention the expulsion of the immigrant.”
According to the archbishop, history teaches that “not only are such narrow-minded moves unfair and usually unconstitutional, but they are counterproductive and harmful.”
Claiming the anti-immigrant sentiment is not dominant, he pointed to another sentiment of the country, “one of welcome and embrace to the immigrant.”
He noted that New Yorkers look out at the Statue of Liberty, whose “torch of welcome” has caused joy to millions of their immigrant ancestors.
This ethos is especially a part of Catholic culture, which he described as “a spiritual mother to immigrants in America.”
Archbishop Dolan also argued that welcoming immigrants is known to be good for the economy and beneficial for society.
The “bright, noble side” of the American character is “to welcome the immigrant, to work hard for their legalization and citizenship, to help them feel at home, to treat them as neighbors and allies in the greatest project of human rights and ethnic and religious harmony in history.”
“To blame them, stalk them, outlaw them, harass them, and consider them outsiders is unbiblical, inhumane, and un-American,” he charged.
Acknowledging the duty of every society to protect its borders, he said this must be done “justly, sanely and civilly.”
“My brother bishops in Arizona worry this is not the case there. They have been joined by Cardinal Roger Mahony, Jewish, other Christians, and various civic and human rights groups.”
“I’m on their side,” he concluded, describing this as the “Statue of Liberty” side, not the “Nativist” one.