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Wanted: a balanced Catholic perspective on immigration

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jul 31, 2014

For a Christians, it seems, immigration is—or should be—a complicated issue. On the one hand, charity compels those of us who are comfortable to help those who are in need, including those who seek to escape from poverty, crime, or persecution. On the other hand, a legitimate concern for preserving our own law and culture require us to set some restrictions on immigration, lest it become a virtual invasion.

Recently I came across a statement that puts the matter nicely in perspective. It would be nice to see the same balance in statements that issue from Catholic leaders both in the hierarchy and on Capitol Hill. The statement first acknowledges the demands of charity….

The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.

… and then acknowledges the need for controls:

Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.

A nice balance, don’t you think? Wouldn’t the statements from the US bishops’ conference carry more weight if they included that perspective—recognizing the obligation of immigrants to obey the law, for instance? So why don’t we hear this sort of balanced perspective from Catholic leaders?

Oh, wait. We do.

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  • Posted by: FredC - Aug. 03, 2014 11:11 AM ET USA

    People from other parts of the world are in greater jeopardy that those in Central America. Should we bring them here (e.g., from Haiti)? We must beware of killing the goose (the U.S.) that lays the golden egg (security, opportunity). We can easily drag our already weak economy into the same state as those in Central America.

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