mounting U.S. debate over immigration is an opportunity to finally find
a just solution to the problem of undocumented workers, said the
president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops last week.
“Heated political debate, large demonstrations, and the presence of large numbers of migrants to this country have finally brought to a head the much-needed discussion, and search for a resolution, of the issue of immigration,” wrote Spokane’s Bishop William Skylstad in a column, published in the April 27 edition of the Spokane Diocese Inland Register.
“It is most important that we recognize that human beings are involved – people who have come to the United States to work and to live. They are brothers and sisters in Christ who deserve respect and support,” he wrote.
The presence of immigrants is integral to U.S. economy, he said, recalling that his father immigrated to the U.S. in 1927.
The bishop recognized that times have changed and that there are many more undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S. than in the past. However, they come seeking work that they desperately need, he said.
“The reality of increasing numbers of undocumented persons cries out for a just resolution,” he said. “Unfortunately, their presence has occasioned a certain amount of immigrant bashing, and even some rather mean-spirited legislation proposed on the national level.”
“We certainly need to secure our borders,” he admitted. “But we have a need for workers in the United States, and people have responded to that need,” he pointed out.
The bishop cited several pastoral letters and documents the U.S. bishops have written on the issues surrounding immigration, either as state conferences, as a national conference and in conjunction with the Mexican bishops (2003).
The documents, he said, remind citizens and legislators that immigration is not just about policy and management but about real people crossing borders to meet their human needs and those of their families by seeking employment, peace, education and stability.
They urge Christians to live the Gospel call to “welcome the stranger.” They affirm the right of a person to migrate in search of a better life and that the dignity and rights of undocumented migrants should be respected.
More recently, the U.S. bishops have embarked upon a special campaign, Justice for Immigrants: A Journey of Hope, which calls for solidarity among the faithful and an overhaul of the U.S. immigration system, the bishops pointed out.
Proposed changes include more access to family reunification, abandoning border blockades, restoring due process protections for immigrants and providing legal pathways for migrants to come and work in a safe, humane, and orderly manner.