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The Catholic Church in the United States has long supported reform to our immigration laws that reflect the reality of migration in the world today and respect the dignity of those migrating. Most immigrants are simply looking for an opportunity to support their families or are fleeing from violence and persecution. The Catholic Church does not encourage illegal immigration. Illegal immigration leaves countless people whose labor is essential to us in the shadows in a second class status. Our current laws provide them with no workable path towards legalizing their status. It leaves them vulnerable to exploitation as they are not able to stand up for themselves when treated unjustly. Many are victims of wage theft: either not paid at all or underpaid what they are promised. Many are exploited through trafficking.
While the Catholic Church in the U.S. does not support illegal immigration, it does support comprehensive immigration reform with the aim of helping immigrants earn lawful permanent residence and addressing the root causes of immigration issues. The Catholic Church opposes “enforcement only” immigration policies such as SB 4 whose measures leave immigrants, legal or otherwise, further in the shadows and more vulnerable to victimization and exploitation. It has the potential to make it difficult or impossible for immigrants to report crimes against themselves or serve as witnesses for crimes committed against others, for fear of facing arrest or deportation. This will affect both documented and undocumented immigrants. The senate bill addresses a symptom of the problem but not the problem itself: the need for comprehensive reform.
The vast majority of immigrants who have come to the state of Texas have come because they need a job and our vibrant economy has jobs in abundance. Or they come fleeing from violence and persecution. These immigrants are not a threat to our safety; rather, we depend on them and their labor for many basic services. They are members of our parishes. Apprehending and deporting others who are a threat to our safety: cartel members, human traffickers, smugglers and terrorists; should be the focus of our efforts, not making life more difficult for vulnerable, hardworking people, for whom life is already difficult enough.
Let us ask God to guide us and all in our legislature as they consider this sensitive issue, that the result may best serve the good of all in our communities.
Image credit: Fr. Lawrence Lew on Flickr.com