Diocesan News

As He Turns 80, Bishop Emeritus DiMarzio Continues Advocacy for Immigration Reform

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio is retired bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y. He writes the column “Walking With Migrants” for Catholic News Service and The Tablet. (OSV News photo/courtesy DeSales Media Group)

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Almost three years into retirement, with his 80th birthday on June 16, Bishop Emeritus Nicholas DiMarzio has enjoyed the change of pace. Between his two favorite hobbies — cooking and gardening — celebrating Masses on the weekends, and writing and researching immigration issues, he’s found a balance.

“I have a very active retirement, which is good,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “I’m busy. I’m not bored.”

Nowadays, Bishop DiMarzio splits his week between the rectory at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in the Diocese of Brooklyn, and the retirement home he has on the Jersey Shore. Typically, he tries to keep business stuff in Brooklyn, and leisure in Jersey.

“Business,” meaning his work to research and educate people on the nation’s immigration reality. Every month Bishop DiMarzio publishes his “Walking With Migrants” column in The Tablet, which is also carried by OSV News, a Catholic news wire service. He also maintains a position on the Center for Migration Studies (CMS) Board of Trustees.

In Bishop DiMarzio’s latest column, he opined that “our national conscience and heritage are at stake” if political leaders don’t resolve the country’s immigration situation. Asked by The Tablet to expand on that notion, he highlighted how important immigrants are to the nation’s fabric.

“Immigration has always been that new blood. Not poisoning the blood, it’s the new blood that has an energy and wants to achieve,” Bishop DiMarzio explained.

“I don’t think people understand how immigrants are integrated into our country,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “There’s a tremendous amount of integration happening quicker than it happened before. … It is our life blood. It is what has made America so great, and to stop it, to take a break, to think that’s going to help, it’s really sad how things are being manipulated.”

Bishop DiMarzio acknowledged, however, that things have gotten a bit out of hand. He noted that even though the Church doesn’t support the recent executive actions by President Joe Biden to essentially bar migrants who cross the border unlawfully from receiving asylum, the move was a “necessary evil” to stop what’s going on.
“Unfortunately, it was necessary because there will be no immigration,” Bishop DiMarzio said, “if this continues the way it is; people would really say this is an invasion.”

The challenge now, Bishop DiMarzio said, will be overhauling the nation’s immigration system.

He said one key issue is getting lawmakers from different sides of the political aisle to work together on a solution, which hasn’t happened as of yet.

There’s also the challenge, Bishop DiMarzio added, of a misinformed public. The latter is why he’s made his column and his work with CMS his priority in retirement. He noted that more so than other social problems, immigration issues are completely dependent on public opinion, which is why he said he hopes to share his column with a wide audience.

“My thing is trying to influence people to understand the reality. Fact based. To change public opinion,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “That’s my passion. To get the facts out and let people make decent decisions and then they influence their legislators. It shouldn’t just be a liberal/conservative is-ue. It should be something that we understand, that we make a decision on.”

Now turning 80, Bishop DiMarzio said he has no plans to slow down this work. June 16 will be a unique day on his schedule, as he will celebrate his birthday with his siblings and many of his 15 grand nieces and nephews. Otherwise, it will be business as usual into the future.

“I’ve found the pattern for retirement,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “I wouldn’t change it.”