On Our Editorial Today

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

I don’t disagree. But, as I was grateful the pope was praying for peace back when we were going to war with Iraq, thanks be to God someone with some credibility is reminding people of humanity. Immigration isn’t just a debate. Those men on any suburban street corner this morning or at the 10:30 Spanish Mass are our brothers, regardless of whether they are here legally or illegally. (This, for the record, is not something our editorial disagrees with!)

In his recent book Immigration and the Next America, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles addresses, among other things, the issue of credibility:

The Catholic Church does not have an immigration policy or technical solutions to offer. Neither do I. But through our charities, ministries, schools, and parishes, the Church has far more day-to-day experience with immigrants — documented and undocumented — than any other institution in American public life. I believe this experience, and the Church’s teachings on human dignity and social justice, can contribute a great deal to our thinking about this issue.

During a press call some months ago, Cardinal Dolan said, “In transit the Catholic Church is there in our services to help people on the move. And then when they come here into receiving communities there we are again. As the late Ed Koch, the mayor of New York told me, he said the two women that have been most welcoming of the immigrant to New York have been the Statue of Liberty and the Catholic Church — mother church.” He also said, “We bishops try to be — we try to stick in the realm of principles.” The bishops’ conference doesn’t always, as the editorial notices and critiques. At the same time, again, I think Gomez’s book is an important one and much of what I’ve heard from individual bishops – beyond an opinion on a particular bill before Congress — ought to be heeded. Archbishop Gomez contends that “immigration is about more than immigration. Immigration is caught up,” he writes, in “deeper questions about the next America.” He writes as a pastor, one who not only has a flock that is caught up in this particular issue, but who sees the mess that indifference, incompetence, and a loss of common culture has made in the lives of people who often are just looking for a better life and are willing to work for it.

Anyway, as I’ve said before, I recommend the book, Immigration and the Next America. And I’ll always have a respect for Marco Rubio for knowing this is urgent to deal with, even if the results, as he well knows, were not what he hoped. Call it a freshman mistake? But the heart was there. You need more than good intentions, needless to say, in the Senate, but it’s a start. Too bad both parties don’t actually seem to want to make something work well. Respecting borders and people. Yes, even those who came here illegally.

Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia wrote earlier this summer: 

The United States has a right to press for the kind of legal and economic reforms in Latin America and elsewhere that would help stabilize the flow of workers back and forth across our borders.  Hypocrisy in the immigration debate is not a monopoly of the north side of the Rio Grande.

But we’re not licensed to mistreat anyone in our midst, whether they have papers or not.  People derive their human dignity and their rights from the God who created us all – whether others find their presence convenient or not.  We need to remember that in the months ahead. . . . Immigration is an issue where committed Catholics can legitimately disagree. But real reform of our immigration laws is long overdue.”

A mess of a bill can’t let us off the hook, in other words. Among other things, looking at how this has been working out in Washington reminds us that elections matter. And merely talking about “comprehensive reform” whether it is on health care or immigration is woefully insufficient and doesn’t tend to end well.