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Bishop Vasa: Recognize human dignity of illegal immigrants

Catholic World News - May 13, 2010

In a May 13 diocesan newspaper column devoted to illegal immigration, Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker (Oregon) urged Catholics to consider the human dignity of illegal immigrants.

“I do not think the Church would propose hiring ‘coyotes’ to help bring people to the United States illegally,” he writes. “Yet, once people are here and in distress then the Church will provide comfort, solace and perhaps even sanctuary because that is what the Church does. There may be some of this that is technically ‘illegal, but splitting up a family or sending a family-wage earner back to Mexico where he can no longer provide for his family is not in accord with what we are to do as members of a church. It is not consistent with the dignity of human persons.”

Bishop Vasa continues:

There is a form of injustice done to the American people when our borders are not respected but there is also a possibility that a grave injustice could be done to an undocumented worker if too harsh a solution is enacted. It is certainly not right for anyone to violate or seek to circumvent the immigration laws of this nation but unless we know all of the reasons and factors that led a person to the decision to come to this country or to remain illegally, I suggest that it is very dangerous for us to judge that person as a “criminal.” The issue of illegal residency in the United States is a most complex and troubling social reality. Very few of the slogans, pro or con, resonate with me. I do find, however, that thinking about real, identifiable people, concrete human persons and human families, makes it much easier to see that those who cross our borders or remain here illegally are not necessarily evil or wicked men or women but simply people with human aspirations and longings and dignity. Crossing a border illegally does not eliminate that person’s right to be treated as a brother or sister. Remaining in this country illegally does not eliminate that person’s human dignity.

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