Editor Emeritus - Ed Wilkinson

Can We Have a Rational Discussion About Immigration?

Since The Tablet did not publish an issue last weekend, the letters to the editor have been piling up on my desk. Most of them have dealt with one subject – the separation of families at the border between the United States and Mexico as we struggle with an influx of peoples wanting to enter the U.S.

So, this week, we have decided to turn over the entire Readers’ Forum space to these letters to try to give a full and balanced approach to what our readers are thinking.

The topic is emotional and so have been the letters.  Sometimes the language has been too harsh to print.  Some letters are unsigned and therefore are not considered. But the discussion has been robust.

There is no easy answer to this problem, although the media has tried to turn it into a black and white issue of children being snatched from their parents’ arms in an attempt to simplify the whole matter into a political battle between the White House and the rest of the world. In fact, the issue is much more nuanced.

Last week, a delegation of U.S. bishops visited the border in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, and met with some of those seeking political asylum. When pressed, the bishops explained that they were there on a humanitarian mission to share the experiences of the refugees and not to make a statement on politics.

Cardinal DiNardo, when asked by Nuestra Voz Editor Jorge Dominguez about whether the country can absorb all the people who want to come here, said that the U.S. has the right to establish its borders and control the numbers of immigrants, but at the same time, he urged the country to be a nation of compassion and to do all it can to alleviate the suffering of as many as possible.

Like so many other issues in the news, the border policy has been reduced to a pro- or anti-Trump referendum when in fact, as the bishops have pointed out, there is a human crisis at stake here and there is enough common ground that we can reach a solution if only we would put politics aside.

As we have seen with so many other issues, our politicians approach very serious problems looking to see how they can gain a political advantage from the situation and not really seeking out the most humane answer.

Our own Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, an international expert on immigration policy, has suggested that the government build family detention centers to keep families together while their requests for asylum are being heard. He also sees the need for more judges to listen to those requests.

The Bishop says that we should stick to the facts and determine if there is a legitimate reason for asylum. If so, then we should be as generous as we can because our country has been built on welcoming strangers.  At the same time, he says that the Church has always maintained that a nation has the right to protect the common good and therefore cannot welcome everyone who wants to come.

“We can do it but we have to do it so that it doesn’t disturb the common good,” said Bishop DiMarzio in a recent interview on Currents News.

Here’s hoping that the exchange of views in our letters to the editor section will shed some light on the truth and help us reach a solution that works for us all.