We believe in the God-given dignity of every human person. Every person — no matter who they are or where they are from –– is a child of God. Whether they are refugees trying to escape their country because of violence or whether they are seeking asylum, we want to make sure that we as bishops are advocating for their just treatment. Immigrants deserve to be treated justly, and above all, with dignity.
The bishops believe that immigration reforms are necessary in order for our nation’s immigration system to respond to the realities of separated families and labor demands that compel people to immigrate to the U.S.
The reality is that our country has 11 million undocumented people and many of them are hidden, many of them are underground, thus they have no voice and the church has a responsibility to be a voice for them. Many immigrants are children who have come here with their parents. They have lived here all their lives and though they might not have the proper documents, we want to make sure that they are treated well. This is their culture; they have learned English. They have been raised in our country, so to force them to go back to their country of origin would be devastating to them.
I, myself, as well as other bishops, have heard from parents whose children are being bullied at school. Children are telling other children that they and their parents are going to be deported. This is happening based on their skin color and their last name. This type of aggressive language is deeply troubling to us as bishops. It is horrible how this type of attitude has filtered into our schools and also into our businesses. Hard-working people are also being threatened because they are immigrants. They are being told that they don’t deserve just wages because they don’t have proper legal documentation. This type of harassment is unacceptable. We advocate for borders that are secure, but at the same time we want to make sure that those people who are coming across the border are treated justly.
We are trying to communicate with the new administration to let them know of the church’s stance on immigration. We are still uncertain about what the administration intends to do about the immigration issues. Harsh rhetoric was used during the presidential campaign and that concerns us very much. The immigration system in our country has been broken for a very long time and there has been little to no support from either political party for decades. To be able to resolve this situation both parties have to work together to come to a solution and quit using immigration to serve their political agendas.
Immigrants have been a blessing to our country. The great diversity of immigrants has brought innovation and hope. Our country was built and established by immigrants and we need the immigrant population to be defended, protected and integrated so that our country continues to grow stronger.
A previous version of this interview was published in February by the Catholic Spirit.