Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Bishop Hubbard discusses immigration reform

Bishop Howard Hubbard discusses immigration reform in his monthly column in The Evangelist:
This year, our Diocese of Albany is one of many in the country seeking to educate our members about the need for comprehensive immigration reform, and to encourage our people to advocate with the President and Congress in addressing this urgent issue.

The Church’s concern about the migration of people has its foundation in the Scriptures; this phenomenon is a common thread throughout the Old and New Testament.

In Exodus, for example, we read of the Israelites, who flee the oppression of Egypt and wander in the wilderness for 40 years, until God leads them to a new home, Israel.

In the New Testament, exile and homelessness mark the life of Christ, as well. In Matthew, the child Jesus and the Holy Family flee as refugees to Egypt to escape the persecution of Herod.

As an adult, Jesus is an itinerant preacher who travels throughout Galilee and Judea to spread his message. He tells us: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head.”
. . . .

Hence, policies that address the root cause of migration must include the following principles:

1. People have the right to find opportunities within their own homeland: They have the right not to migrate. This principle emphasizes that all people have the right to find in their own countries the economic, political and social opportunities to live in dignity and not be compelled to migrate.

2. People have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families where conditions do not exist to meet their basic needs. Unfortunately, U.S. immigration laws and policies have become outdated and even harmful to some immigrants and asylum seekers.

As already noted, between 10 and 12 million people in the U.S. live on the margins of our society for lack of proper immigration documentation. Immigrants who are legal permanent residents in the U.S. who want to reunite with close family members must often wait 10 or more years for visas for their relatives.

Enforcement strategies employed along our southern border have resulted in thousands of deaths and have not resulted in a decrease in migration flows. Asylum seekers who flee persecution in their home countries and look for safe haven in the U.S. instead find themselves detained as criminals.

Immigration reform in the United States, then, should include a path to permanent residency which is achievable and family unification which allows immediate family members to join workers.

3. Sovereign nations have the right to control their borders. The Church does not promote an “open border” immigration policy, but rather policies that ensure safe, legal and orderly immigration and address the needs of both migrant families and impacted communities.

4. The human dignity and human rights of all migrants should be respected. Regardless of their legal status, migrants, like all persons, possess inherent human dignity and human rights that should be respected. Enforcement and border control practices should respect the human dignity of migrants.

In sum, the Church must work to reduce the need for people to migrate and to protect those people who have little choice but to do so. Our long-term goal is equitable and sustainable development for all peoples, so that migration is driven by choice, not by desperation.

The entire column can be found here.