.- Labor Day invites Catholics to celebrate the value of work, but it also challenges the faithful to consider how the U.S. economy treats all workers, including migrant workers and immigrants, who have come to the U.S. through legal or illegal means, said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn.
In his annual Labor Day reflection, the bishop pointed out how the issues of work and immigration are in many ways intertwined. Bishop DiMarzio serves as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Domestic Policy Committee.
“The challenge of immigration today is not just at the borders, but in our labor markets,” the bishop acknowledged. He pointed out that more than 12 percent of U.S. residents and 15 percent of workers were born in another country. These figures are up from about 5 percent in 1960.
“As this happens, newcomers can find themselves linguistically and culturally isolated and more vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination because of their legal status and language barriers,” he stated. “And local communities can feel overwhelmed by the growing presence of people in their midst with different languages and different ways.”
However, he stated plainly: “The simple fact is many parts of our nation's economy have become dependent on immigrant workers.”
The bishop expressed regret at the divisive nature of the current national immigration debate and urged Catholics to be agents of hospitality, to “welcome the ‘strangers’ among us”, and to build bridges in the ongoing debate.
“The Catholic Church has a long history of involvement with immigrants,” he wrote in his message. “The Church's mission in assisting and standing with immigrants flows from our belief that every person is created in God's image.
“For the Catholic Church, immigration is not a political issue, but a fundamental human and moral issue,” he stated. “Through the decades, immigrants have built our communities of faith and they are still bringing new life to our Church. Immigrants are not numbers for us. They are our brothers and sisters; they are our ‘neighbors.’”
He asked Catholics to consider immigration from the various points of view of the migrants who come seeking a better life for their families and of the people who work on immigration issues and policies.
“We must and we can find reasonable and responsible ways to welcome those seeking a new life and opportunity,” he said. “I believe we can help newcomers without legal status to come out from the shadows and contribute more fully to our communities. When we do this, I believe we can also increase the security of our nation and the vitality of our Church.”