Catholic World News

Prelate: US bishops will oppose immigration reform that does not offer path to citizenship

December 06, 2012

Addressing a conference devoted to immigration policy and advocacy, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta said that the bishops of the United States will oppose immigration-reform proposals that do not offer a path to citizenship.

“Some in the debate have suggested that undocumented persons be given legal status, but not an opportunity to earn citizenship,” he said. “This is a position that the US bishops will resist. We will argue against the creation of a permanent underclass in this country, where certain parts of our population do not have the rights that others do.”

“Our nation has been down this road before, with disastrous results,” he continued. “As we know from our nation’s history, many persons, including Dr. King, have fought and died so that all persons can enjoy the full rights of citizenship. We cannot forsake this principle for the purpose of political expediency.”

“The US bishops will accept and support reasonable enforcement measures, since, as I mentioned earlier, it is part of the right of a sovereign to ensure the integrity of its borders and protect the common good of its citizens,” he added. “However, such measures must respect basic human rights and dignity, as imbued by our Creator, and include basic due process protections for immigrants and their families.”

In his talk – which took place at a conference sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network – Archbishop Gregory linked support for immigration reform to Blessed John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris.

“We support adherence to civil law and we continue to recognize the right of sovereign nations to the integrity of their borders in order to foster the common good,” Archbishop Gregory said. “However, this right is not absolute. Nations, especially the rich nations of the world, have an obligation to the universal common good, as articulated by Pope John XXIII in Pacem in Terris, and thus should seek to accommodate migration to the greatest extent possible when migration is necessary for the good of other human beings. The fact that so many migrants are dying in their efforts to meet basic human needs by crossing deserts and risking their lives suggests that there are human needs driving migration to the United States and we are obligated to address those needs through public policies here and in other countries.”

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  • Posted by: fwhermann3492 - Dec. 08, 2012 4:58 PM ET USA

    moriarty6882: My point is not whether their authority is exercised formally or informally but whether internal and external assent must be granted to political opinions expressed by the bishops. As far as I can tell, there are no "teachings" here, only a threat to oppose an application of civil legislation. If the bishops, speaking in unison, present a cogent teaching on the rights of immigrants to citizenship, I will obey it. But they haven't done that to my knowledge.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 07, 2012 6:35 PM ET USA

    fwhermann3492: As Catholics, we have the responsibility to defer to the teaching of our bishops. The magisterium functions both formally and informally. I am a canon lawyer, and I can assure you that such deference is not limited to those instances when the bishops exercise their magisterial authority formally. I don't have my code handy, but relevant canons are found in book on the teaching office of the Church. Lumen Gentium also makes the same point.

  • Posted by: fwhermann3492 - Dec. 07, 2012 3:54 PM ET USA

    moriarty6882: With all respect, Father, you did indeed create a textbook straw man in that you equated opposition to giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship with opposition to Hispanics and immigration in general. And somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but magisterial authority applies only to matters of faith and morals, not to politics and specific applications of social teaching. While the Church teaches people have the right to migrate, she doesn't say nations must make them citizens.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 07, 2012 12:01 PM ET USA

    fwhermann3492: I did not say magisterial teaching but magisterial authority. Disrespect the second and it is a short path to dismissing the first. A pervasive current of criticism towards our bishops prevails in the comments on this site. Nor is there a straw man in my comments. The immigration about which everyone is so concerned is that coming from Mexico. It would be wonderful if immigration current laws allowed individuals to enter our country legally and efficiently.

  • Posted by: fwhermann3492 - Dec. 07, 2012 10:31 AM ET USA

    moriarty6882: It's difficult to see how this could be a magisterial teaching as it is certainly not the ordinary teaching of the church--unlike, say, prohibition against the ordination of women, which our brethren on the left are defying. Moreover, no one is saying we should not encourage Hispanic growth. (That is a straw man on your part.) We are saying it should be done legally. There is also no reason many of the illegals can't be given green cards w/o giving them citizenship.

  • Posted by: unum - Dec. 07, 2012 9:38 AM ET USA

    Our political bishops area at it again! What is the moral issue involved in whether someone gets a green card or citizenship? Whether immigrants receive citizenship is a civil issue that involves economics, national security, and other civil issues. Church teaching clearly give civil authorities the responsibility for those issues.

  • Posted by: Thomas429 - Dec. 07, 2012 1:23 AM ET USA

    I cannot see why anyone who believes in the rule of law, religeous freedom, and truth to those immigrants who came to this country legally can support anything that allows people that have and continue to break the laws of this land to jump to the front of the line and get citizenship to which they are not entitled. Close the borders and enforce the laws we have then we may talk

  • Posted by: Thomas429 - Dec. 07, 2012 1:23 AM ET USA

    I cannot see why anyone who believes in the rule of law, religeous freedom, and truth to those immigrants who came to this country legally can support anything that allows people that have and continue to break the laws of this land to jump to the front of the line and get citizenship to which they are not entitled. Close the borders and enforce the laws we have then we may talk

  • Posted by: - Dec. 06, 2012 6:41 PM ET USA

    Once again the comments on this board display a subversive disloyalty to the magisterial authority of the Church. Such dissension shows no more allegiance to the Church than the opinions offered by left wing Catholics. Keep in mind that Hispanics are the future of the Church in the United States. Without immigration the Catholic population of our country would be shrinking.. Seventy percent of the parish of which I am the pastor are Spanish speaking. Is it our goal to have fewer Catholics?

  • Posted by: joancollins507161 - Dec. 06, 2012 5:55 PM ET USA

    The bishops say every country has a right to protect its borders; yet they want citizenship for those who enter illegally. Aren't those two statements contradictory? We are all for legal immigration, no matter from which country, but we simply can't sustain illegal immigration.

  • Posted by: mgreen32234 - Dec. 06, 2012 4:19 PM ET USA

    Pullease. Why don't the bishops stay out of politics. Hey guys, save your "resistance" for the time when you are being frog-marched up Main Street by the anti-Catholic creatures you have helped put into office.

  • Posted by: cranberry - Dec. 06, 2012 11:01 AM ET USA

    Has no one told the USCCB that there already is a "path to citizenship" for "immigrants"? It's called apply for entry to the United States, wait to be approved, gain entry, remain employed and obey the laws, wait five years, then be sworn in as a citizen after passing an easy test to prove English comprehension. Now, if they wish to discuss the status of "illegal immigrants" they should have the integrity to use the correct and honest terminology, instead of the main stream media's euphemisms.

  • Posted by: fwhermann3492 - Dec. 06, 2012 7:44 AM ET USA

    Can somebody please tell me how not allowing first-generation illegal immigrants to become citizens is creating "a permanent underclass" in the country? It is logic like this that has damaged the credibility of the USCCB.