National News

Women Religious to Congress: Back Those Who Welcome Immigrants 

Sister Susan Wilcox, a Sister of St. Joseph from Brentwood, New York, and longtime immigrant advocate, addresses rally participants Sept. 13 on Capitol Hill during an event sponsored by Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization. (Photo: Carol Zimmermann)

WASHINGTON — Catholic women religious joined immigration advocates in a Sept. 13 rally on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol urging Congress to support communities that welcome asylum-seekers and other immigrants. 

Speakers from Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization, and the immigrant advocacy group, Welcome with Dignity, reminded the few dozen participants gathered outside on a warm afternoon of how all people are connected and immigrants who have contributed to this country deserve to be welcomed here.

The speakers also urged Congress to do more, saying immigrant advocacy groups are doing their part but they need support. 

This message was brought home by Sister Susan Wilcox, a Sister of St. Joseph from Brentwood, New York, who spoke about her work in welcoming migrants who arrived by busloads in New York City. 

“New Yorkers all across the state have proven they do want to welcome immigrants and provide for those in need in our communities. We want to work with our nonprofit service providers and with the government. We just need a little help,” she said.

The rally, taking place as Congress was preparing to vote on the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill, concluded with prayers for immigrants and immigration reform and prayers that the letter from Network to members of Congress, and signed by 9,000 U.S. Catholics, would make an impact. 

The letter, scheduled to be hand delivered to some congressional offices after the rally, urged lawmakers to “shift decisively away from a punitive response to migration” by decreasing funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, cutting funding for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and rescinding unspent funds for construction of the border wall. 

It reminded lawmakers of Pope Francis’ 2015 address to Congress where he said: “When the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our ‘neighbors’ and everything around us.” 

The letter also said that “for far too long, our immigrant siblings have waited for Congress to pass legislation that affirms their dignity by providing them access to citizenship and services. The efforts of successive administrations and Congress have eroded long-standing protections of immigrants in the U.S.” 

It urged Congress to provide support and long-term services for immigrants with legal help, housing, transportation, education, job training, food security, and health care services, saying: “Our taxpayer dollars should go toward investing in communities by keeping families together and give everyone the resources they need to thrive.”

During a Sept. 13 rally on Capitol Hill organized by Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization, Rep. Lou Correa, D-California, holds up an image of Pope Francis saying he’s “my guy” who gives a good example of Catholic teaching on caring for migrants. (Photo: Carol Zimmermann)

Three members of Congress joined the rally and thanked the immigrant advocates for their work. 

Rep. Lou Correa, D-California, held up an image of Pope Francis saying he’s “my guy” who gives a good example of Catholic teaching on caring for migrants, and Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said immigrants have helped to make the United States the “strongest nation in the world.”

Rep. Judy Chu, D-California, said the United States has a rich history of immigration but that too many politicians today speak of immigrants as political pawns in a way that stirs fear. As Congress looks at funding, she said, it should uphold its “moral responsibility to protect those who seek refuge” at our borders.