Scripture tells us that there is a time and a season for everything under heaven.
For comprehensive immigration reform that time and season has arrived.
And this time must be the final time.
For seven long years comprehensive immigration reform has languished in Congress despite support from Presidents Bush and Obama and leading members in both major political parties. Proposed legislation after legislation has been nitpicked to death and for far too long a stubborn minority has curtailed progress on this human rights and civil rights issue.
And it seems finally that the Catholic Church and the People of God have had enough. We’re frustrated.
This hits home for us. Yes, the United States is a land of immigrants. But we too are a faith of immigrants. Irish, Germans, Polish and Italians—mostly Catholic—came to our shores in droves throughout the nineteenth century. The American Catholic Church is a family of immigrants made up of every race. We are young and old, rich and poor, men and women, all sinners and saints.
With God’s grace, and the hard work of the sisters, we Catholics started hospitals to care for the sick. We established orphanages and helped the poor. While we fight for justice, we are the largest charitable organization in the United States, bringing relief and comfort to those in need today as we have throughout our history.
We founded the biggest collegiate system in the country and have educated more Americans than any other institution on Earth.
In a unique and incomparable way, Catholic immigrants helped to build America and Catholic immigrants are still building America.
Sadly our prophetic voices—which speak so loudly on other matters concerning the dignity of the human person—haven’t spoken loudly enough on this issue.
That must change, right here and right now. In a particular way, we must remind the Catholic members of Congress that their faith tradition is clear: immigration reform is a non-negotiable issue.
It must happen.
And make no mistake: if every Catholic elected official in Washington votes for comprehensive immigration reform, it will pass.
In a week, a group of Catholic sisters dubbed as the “Nuns on the Bus” will begin a tour across the United States to celebrate the role immigrants have had in building up the United States. They will tell the hardships that undocumented immigrants have gone through with the unjust laws that currently plague immigrants and their families. And—finally—they will call on our elected representatives to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
We too must join them in this effort. We must remind our elected representatives—particularly our fellow Catholics—that a nation so deeply rooted in Christian origins—must do what it can to welcome the stranger in our midst.
Part of becoming an American is the right, and therefore the obligation, to participate in democracy. Yes, we know we should vote but the votes were cast last November. Now, we are called on to do more, to speak to our elected officials in Washington and let them know we support immigration reform and want it passed now. We need to write letters to the editor at our local papers, call in on radio shows, ask our pastors to preach about this issue from the pulpit. In a nation that is politically divided as never before along partisan lines, the Catholic commitment to immigration reform can cross those divides. The priest preaches to Democrat and Republican alike and we need to hear the clarion call for justice from our pulpits and speak out if we don’t. CACG will be at the forefront of this fight, both in Washington and in key electoral districts.
Welcoming the stranger. This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. If we proclaim it, if we defend it, we will pass this much needed legislation and make our blessed nation something more blessed still.