Thursday, March 4, 2010

Immigration reform is key

Fr. José E. Hoyos
Arlington Catholic Herald
March 4, 2010

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is supporting immigration reform. The position of the Catholic Church is rather clear and has been so for many years. After all, the position of the Catholic Church is rooted in the Gospel, which I am sure you have heard many times over your Catholic life. Catholics believe that immigration is about social justice and welcoming the stranger. The ways in which this may be accomplished is a function of government. Elected government officials are also called to be good Catholics or at the very least, be good Christians. However, we must all be alert when the press and politicians seek to take advantage of those who comprise perhaps the less privileged sector of society. It is not uncommon to find the use of misinformation and half-truths in issues such as this one.

With this in mind and to offer some food for thought regarding the issue of immigration in United States for the last 20 years, it is appropriate to glance back into recent history. In the late 1980s, the U.S. Department of Labor published a white paper titled “Work Force 2000.’’ In it, the United States predicted shortages in the labor force as we entered the 21st century. It appears that our economy was not about to stall because of a shrinking labor force. Instead, three phenomena took place: (1) people immigrated into the United States through its open borders and coasts; (2) labor outsourcing became popular; and (3) Congress increased the number of visas in targeted categories to import certain professionals. The first group of people sought opportunity as many fled civil strife, poor economic conditions, natural disasters and government oppression. The last group, albeit somewhat reduced in the last few years, continues to provide a steady stream of immigrants.

Fast forwarding to 2010, “open borders” and legalization of “illegal” immigrants are common themes. However, we should carefully study the issue of immigration before uttering incorrect statements.

Our country has many miles of coast and borders with Mexico and Canada. Sadly, the normal comment about “closing the border” refers to Mexico. Little is known about the treaties entered by past presidents with the governments of Mexico and Canada for the protection of the North American land mass. Many of these agreements explain the reason for the “open borders.” Some, who advocate against immigrants, have argued security concerns. Yet, foiled terrorist attempts appear to have occurred to the North due to bilateral law enforcement initiatives and intelligence. We should expect the same bilateral cooperation to the South but governments fail. Finally, we must first understand that “closed borders” will not stop unlawful immigration, which by the way does not only happen from the South.

The other hot topic of our times is the fate of those who entered our country without inspection by an immigration officer. If our governments have opted not to stop the flow of immigrants, is it fair to dispose of them when they no longer suit our needs? Can we really do without them? Before we can answer that question, we must look around us with wide opened eyes to see who is supporting our country. So, is it fair to get rid of all those human beings? What would be the effect on our economy? I am sure there are those in government with much more information and better able to choose the best direction for our country, without the need to use misinformation and false propaganda.

In closing, numbers and quotas belong to, and are used by, governments and politicians. Languages often indicate broadened cultural experience and global awareness. Immigration should always be about social justice and welcoming the one that seeks shelter for a better life.

It is important that we as Catholics support our Catholic brothers and sisters by participating in the bishops’ immigration campaign by filling an immigration postcard at our parishes that will be sent to our state representatives. Do not forget that no human being is illegal in this world nor does the Kingdom of Heaven have boundaries.

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