Peace & Justice

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

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Answering immigration questions

In the May 2 issue of Our Sunday Visitor, Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, answered some of their readers’ toughest questions about the Church’s position on immigration. A few of the questions follow, with a partial answer to each one. The full answers to these and other questions can be found here.

Question: What don’t the bishops understand about “illegal”? Why disrespect the rule of law?

Answer: The U.S. bishops and the teachings of the Catholic Church have consistently respected the right of the sovereign to control its borders, as well as the rule of civil law. However, the Church, along with other members of our democratic society, has the right to work to change laws which are believed to violate basic human dignity, dignity imbued by the Creator.

. . .

Question: The current situation of illegal immigration is causing an unsustainable strain on social services. Do the bishops not see that as a problem?

Answer: There are several myths in this area. First of all, most studies show that, although at an early age immigrants consume more than they contribute, over a lifetime they are net contributors to our economy through the taxes they pay, the goods they produce and consume, and their labor. Moreover, legal immigrants do not qualify for welfare or health care for the first five years of their residency in the United States, while undocumented immigrants never qualify for such benefits. In fact, undocumented immigrants pay billions in income taxes each year and at least $7 billion in Social Security taxes, helping to sustain Social Security for the baby-boomer generation.

. . .

Question: Why should not the priority be on the development in the countries the immigrants come from so they do not want to come here in the first place?

Answer: In fact, the U.S. bishops have stated that Congress should look at the “push factors,” such as the lack of living-wage employment, that compel immigrants to leave their home countries and risk their lives to come to the United States in search of jobs.