Catholic World News

Hispanic bishops decry ‘disdain for immigrants,’ inaction on immigration reform

December 13, 2011

Thirty-three of the Hispanic bishops in the US, including the archbishops of Los Angeles and San Antonio, have written a letter to the nation’s immigrants “to let those of you who lack proper authorization to live and work in our country know that you are not alone, or forgotten.”

In their message of support, the bishops say that immigrants have made important contributions to American society, and lamented that "you are often treated as criminals because you have violated current immigration laws."

“In a very special way we want to thank you for the Christian values you manifest to us with your lives—your sacrifice for the well-being of your families, your determination and perseverance, your joy of life, your profound faith and fidelity despite your insecurity and many difficulties,” the bishops said in their letter, issued on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. “You contribute much to the welfare of our nation in the economic, cultural and spiritual arenas.”

The bishops continued:

The economic crisis has had an impact on the entire U.S. community. Regretfully, some in reaction to this environment of uncertainty show disdain for immigrants and even blame them for the crisis …

In your suffering faces we see the true face of Jesus Christ. We are well aware of the great sacrifice you make for your families’ well-being. Many of you perform the most difficult jobs and receive miserable salaries and no health insurance or social security. Despite your contributions to the well-being of our country, instead of receiving our thanks, you are often treated as criminals because you have violated current immigration laws.

We are also very aware of the pain suffered by those families who have experienced the deportation of one of their members. We are conscious of the frustration of youth and young adults who have grown up in this country and whose dreams are shattered because they lack legal immigration status. We also know of the anxiety of those whose application process for permanent residency is close to completion and of the anguish of those who live daily under the threat of deportation. This situation cries out to God for a worthy and humane solution.

We acknowledge that, at times, actions taken in regard to immigrants have made you feel ignored or abandoned, especially when no objection is raised to the false impressions that are promoted within our society …

The lack of a just, humane and effective reform of immigration laws negatively affects the common good of the entire United States. It pains and saddens us that many of our Catholic brothers and sisters have not supported our petitions for changes in the immigration law that will protect your basic rights while you contribute your hard work to our country. We promise to keep working to bring about this change …

As pastors concerned for your welfare, we ask you to consider seriously whether it is advisable to undertake the journey here until after just and humane changes occur in our immigration laws …

As members of the Body of Christ which is the Church, we offer you spiritual nourishment. Feel welcome to Holy Mass, the Eucharist, which nourishes us with the word and the body and blood of Jesus. We offer you catechetical programs for your children and those religious education programs that our diocesan resources allow us to put at your disposal

“We urge you not to despair,” the bishops added. “Keep faith in Jesus the migrant who continues to walk beside you. Have faith in Our Lady of Guadalupe who constantly repeats to us the words she spoke to St. Juan Diego, ‘Am I, who am your mother, not here?’ She never abandons us, nor does St. Joseph who protects us as he did the Holy Family during their emigration to Egypt.”

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  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Dec. 14, 2011 11:31 PM ET USA

    samuel, I'll look for the book you mention. Concerning the criminality of illegal entry (the most important issue), I'm looking at 8 USC sec. 325, which says in part: "Any alien who (1) enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers... shall, for the first commission of any such offense, be fined under Title 18 or imprisoned not more than six months, or both...". Sounds like a Federal crime to me.

  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - Dec. 14, 2011 8:31 AM ET USA

    doverbeachcomber, I used to believe as you do. However, I suggest you read a book called "Living Illegal." It was very even-handed about the immigration issue and it opened my eyes. One way it did was to explain that immigration law is administrative in nature not criminal. So an immigrant who overstays a visa is breaking a procedural rule, not committing a crime. I agree with the bishops who advocate for procedural reform. I also think we need border security to keep out MI13, al-Qaeda.

  • Posted by: JP810 - Dec. 13, 2011 11:17 PM ET USA

    Crossing into our country -- US -- without proper credentials to work is a crime and those who do so are here in the US illegally. We love you as a brother and sister in Christ but it doesn't wipe away the fact you committed a crime and expulsion is a consequence of your act. I pray that your country -- Mexico -- will treat you better in the future so you would't have cross illegally into our country.

  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Dec. 13, 2011 8:57 PM ET USA

    "You are often treated as criminals because you have violated current immigration laws." Earth to bishops: violating current laws = crime. Those who commit crimes = criminals. Criminals should be treated as... criminals. Should we treat illegal immigrants with mercy? Of course. But can we please stop denying that their coming here in defiance of our laws was a crime?

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Dec. 13, 2011 1:38 PM ET USA

    Now, maybe the Church will see fit to integrate Hispanic Catholics more fully into the mainstream life of the Church, rather than building autonomous communities within parishes that do not support themselves and actively subvert the needs of the parish as a whole. Just thinkin'.