U.S. immigration laws are “immoral and unjust” and should be reformed to create a “path to citizenship,” Bishop of Orlando Thomas Wenski has said. Comparing illegal entry into the U.S. to a misdemeanor like jaywalking, he noted that participants in the Boston Tea Party were also lawbreakers.
Weeks before his appointment to become Archbishop-designate of Miami, Bishop Wenski spoke to the Diocese of Orlando’s Pastoral Council on March 27. He said that immigration laws are “immoral and unjust” because they are “antiquated” and “inadequate” for present realities, according to the Florida Catholic newspaper.
“When we look at illegal entry into the U.S. from a Catholic perspective, we understand that it doesn’t carry a moral judgment on that person,” the bishop commented, comparing the situation to Jim Crow laws which barred blacks from drinking out of white drinking fountains.
“It is not a felony to be in this country illegally — it’s a misdemeanor, which is what you do when you jaywalk or speed. You don’t become a criminal because you have a lead foot or don’t use the crosswalk,” he explained.
Adding that the U.S. bishops are not necessarily advocating amnesty, he said they advocate “a path to citizenship.”
“So if people didn’t follow the proper procedures in coming into this country, then just as with jaywalking, you get a fine,” he commented.
Comprehensive reform would allow employers a legal method of bringing workers to the country.
“First, let’s give a path to legality for those who are here. Next, let’s support the reunification of families,” he added, noting the ten-year waiting period for bringing families into the country.
He pointed out that the “patriots” of the Boston Tea Party were law breakers, as was civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks. If these people can be honored, he argued, then the situation of illegal immigrants can be resolved and they can integrate into American society.
Noting that social justice is part of the Catholic faith, he added that Catholics cannot pray “Thy will be done” without committing themselves to social justice.