We face a crisis because 11 million undocumented persons live at the margins of our society. Our country has been eager to benefit from their labor, but reluctant to share much in return. Our current immigration policy is focused on deporting these people. Most of those we are deporting are not violent criminals. Many have been working here for at least a decade and have children who are U.S. citizens. One quarter of all deportees have been parents who are being removed from ordinary households.
Archbishop José H. Gomez urges Americans to remember that they are a nation made great by immigration. He reminds Catholics that all immigrants, belong to God’s family. He has placed the resources of the local Church at the service of these people who are most in need. The Archbishop is calling for immediate and comprehensive immigration reform. He emphasizes three basic principles as the foundation for reform:
1. Every immigrant is a human person, a child of God.
2. We must keep families together.
3. Our nation should have secure borders and immigration laws that are just, realistic, and consistently and compassionately enforced.
Immigration is always an important moral issue. Christians in every age are challenged to practice hospitality (Hebrews 13:1-2) and welcome foreigners (Leviticus 19:34). Jesus identified himself with strangers in our midst (Matthew 25:35). In every age, people are displaced by war and other disasters. They flee oppression. They seek opportunities. In previous eras, waves of immigration have enriched the United States, and still today — industries ranging from hi-tech to construction and farm work — continue to depend on immigrants to provide needed labor and fresh perspectives. The Next America must be still more welcoming. There is no other way consistent with our founding principles. There is no other way to plan for our economic future.
For two decades, our country has refused to enforce its laws. So we now have millions of undocumented people living here. That includes millions of children who are U.S. citizens living with undocumented parents. These children have the right to grow up confident that their parents will not be deported. What is the alternative? Do we want to consign their fate to overworked caseworkers in an underfunded court system? No. We must stop the threat of deportation for those who are not violent criminals. But that is not enough. We must acknowledge the reasons why we are in this mess. We have built an economy that depends upon immigrant labor; yet we have not changed our laws in any corresponding way. After decades of non-enforcement, nothing short of deep reform will work.