Here in Arizona the issue of immigration is always a “hot” topic. Many families have immigrated, in this or in previous generations, from other countries. We must keep in mind that the United States was born largely from the experiences of families that came from afar, facing difficulties and danger of death in search of the dream of freedom or the need of better living conditions, leaving loved ones and everything familiar behind. The issue of illegal immigration affects both newcomers and those who welcome them. On the one hand, every country has the right to defend its borders and is the responsibility of their civil authorities to do so. On the other hand, people also have the right to migrate, looking for a better life or fleeing an unfair or unsafe situation (Let’s keep in mind that our Lord along with the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph were immigrants in a foreign land). The collision between these two rights creates a problem which, in the 21st century, is now truly of global proportions.
I will limit myself here to quoting Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted from his book Catholics and Public Life regarding the position of the Church on the issue of immigration (#32):
The immigration issues facing our country today are extraordinarily complex and do not lend themselves to easy answers and simple solutions. Nonetheless, there are certain principles of Catholic Teaching that are relevant in addressing these matters.
The Church clearly recognizes the right of the state to control its borders. At the same time, as Pope John Paul II stated, “the Church in America must be a vigilant advocate, defending against any unjust restriction of the natural right of individual persons to move freely within their own nation and from one nation to another. Attention must be called to the rights of migrants and their families and to respect for their human dignity, even in cases of non-legal immigration.” (Ecclesia in America, 65)
As our country works to address these complex issues, progress will only be possible when pursued through candid and courteous dialogue and respect for the human dignity of all. We do well to remember Pope Benedict’s words to the U.S. Bishops (April 16, 2008), “I want to encourage you and your communities to continue to welcome the immigrants who join your ranks today, to share their joys and hopes, to support them in their sorrows and trials, and to help them flourish in their new home. This, indeed, is what your fellow countrymen have done for generations. From the beginning, they have opened their doors to the tired, the poor, the ‘huddled masses yearning to breathe free’ (cf. Sonnet inscribed on the Statue of Liberty). These are the people whom America has made her own.”
For a more specific answer, I also encourage you to read the pastoral letter of the Catholic Bishops of the United States and Mexico on immigration, entitled Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope, which can be found online on the website of the Episcopal Conference of the United States.
So let us ask God, that He would free us of the “Catholics yes, but” and that, in the words of Pope Benedict, the United States be a country that welcomes immigrants, supports them and helps them to flourish in their new home.