Put Out into the Deep

A Chance for Immigration Reform

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

Nov. 13 was the celebration of the Feast of St. Frances Cabrini, the patroness of immigrants, a saint to whom I have a special devotion. I have kept a small statue of Mother Cabrini on my desk for the last 40 years. Every day, I look upon the face of that brave and noble woman who courageously defended not only her native Italian immigrants but others as well. She had the courage to challenge the bishops and pastors of her day when they ignored the pastoral needs of immigrants. She is truly known as the “Mother of Immigrants,” since her life and the order which she founded, The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, have done so much to assist immigrants.

My own pastoral work as a priest began in the Newark Archdiocese assisting Italian immigrants. But soon the needs of others became quite clear, and, as someone once told me, you cannot love one person without loving everyone. Love knows no boundaries or distinction; the love of one immigrant must be extended to all.

After the recent midterm elections, our country is facing the possibility of a new political working relationship between both parties, since now the Republicans control both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. One of the major contentious issues that seems to divide them is the issue of immigration. President Barack Obama has pledged to work with the Republicans and also individually without them in order to initiate some immigration reforms that are badly needed. The use of Executive Power can be questioned and be overturned by any succeeding President. This may not be the best approach to resolving this long-term problem; however, it is imperative that our country come to grips with an issue that is long overdue.

The American Bishops have always had five guiding principles that direct our policy and advocacy in this regard. The five principles that emerge from the Church’s teaching that guide our views on migration are the following: People have the right to find opportunities in their homeland; people have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families; sovereign nations have the right to control their borders; refugees and asylum-seekers should be afforded protection; and the human dignity and human rights of undocumented migrants should be respected. At first glance, some might see these principles of Catholic social teaching as contradictory, but their careful application will produce a more just and equitable treatment for any stranger in this land.

As our Nation puts out into the deep waters of policy making on immigration, let us pray that both parties and our President will come together to deal correctly and justly with the social issue that cries for justice and compromise. I pray to Mother Cabrini each day that she will continue to intercede for migrants and refugees around the world.

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