Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver and Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs, and Apostolic Administrator of Pueblo, released a joint statement today that offers a Catholic framework for the debate on immigration reform.
Titled “Immigration and Our Nation’s Future,” the 3,000-word letter outlines seven moral principles, based on Catholic social teaching, which put the human person at the center of any discussion of immigration.
The bishops emphasize that the letter is not intended to serve as practical legislation, nor is it an endorsement of any particular policy or political party. “America needs to reform its immigration laws across the board,” they say, “but establishing the specifics of those new regulations is the job of lawmakers, not pastors.”
Noting that it is often easy to see the issue of immigration in “a simplistic ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ motif,” the bishops of Colorado urge Catholics to view the issue through another lens: “If we think with the Church and try to see immigrants through the eyes of Christ, then a shift should occur in our minds and hearts.”
“Regardless of the legal status of the immigrants in our communities,” the bishops continue, “Jesus gives us the standard of welcoming them in his name.”
Calling on all Catholics to urge their legislators to work toward just immigration reform, the bishops state that the faithful must first turn to God and ask for wisdom, “as King Solomon did.”
“God is both infinitely just and merciful,” they conclude, “and the immigration situation America is facing requires the wise application of both justice and mercy.”
Below are the seven principles of immigration reform:
1. The principle of the common good: “Catholic social teaching, especially over the last 120 years, has not failed to repeat that every able member of the community, especially those in positions of public authority, has a grave responsibility to work to preserve and promote the common good.”
2. The universal destination of the world’s resources and the right to private property: “The fact that God gave creation to everyone means that when people cannot meet their basic subsistent needs or those of their families, the right to private property yields to the universal destination of goods.”
3. The dignity and rights of all migrants should be respected and protected:“Because of every person’s God-given dignity, the Christian response to immigrants should be one of hospitality that rejects all sentiments and manifestations of xenophobia and racism.”
4. The creation of nations and the right to control borders are legitimate: “The Church teaches that the creation of nations and states with sovereign boundaries does not contradict the principle of the universal destination of the world’s resources because it favors an internally just political order.”
5. The right to emigrate and respect for local laws: “The Church has continually taught that people have a natural right to emigrate, that is, to leave their country in search of better economic and social conditions for themselves and their families.”
6. Refugees and asylum seekers should be afforded protection: “Because of the serious dangers refugees face, the international community has a more serious obligation to accommodate their requests for asylum than it does for those who emigrate from countries that have a more stable social situation.”
7. Authentic integration of immigrants and the enforcement of laws: “Experience shows that when a society is too ethnically and culturally diverse it can give rise to political instability. Therefore, when politicians make decisions about immigration policies, the question of integration cannot be overlooked.”