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Guest Column

 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinJanuary 2, 2009 Issue 

Join church in observing National Migration Week


By Br. Steve Herro

photo of Br. Steve Herro
Br. Steve Herro

On Nov. 25, Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock, Ark., released "I Was a Stranger and you Welcomed Me: A Pastoral Letter on the Human Rights of Immigrants," (see http://www.dolr.org/bishop/pastoralimmigration_english.pdf for English, http://www.dolr.org/bishop/pastoralinmigracion_espanol.pdf for Spanish).

The letter and its accompanying Advent Study Guide received great attention in the church's immigration networks and his thoughts bear commentary for all of us during National Migration Week 2009, Jan. 4-10, and beyond.

According to Bishop Taylor, Catholic social teaching on immigration is enfolded around several premises:

  • The God of the Bible is a God of immigrants and the history of salvation unfolds largely in the context of immigration;

  • Migration is a God-given right that we have to meet our God-given obligations, especially the provision of the material goods to our families and escape persecution;

  • Along with the right to life comes the right to access to the basic necessities of life: food, clothing, shelter, basic medical care, and decent employment that pays enough to provide for one's family;

  • Along with the right to liberty comes the right to religious freedom, the right to one's own identity regardless of race, religion, gender, legal condition, usefulness to society, health, etc., and the right to participate in community.

He later outlines five planks to the U.S. bishops' call for immigration reform:

  • Global anti-poverty efforts: We must embrace processes that counteract conditions that force persons to have to leave their homelands;

  • Expanded opportunities to reunify families: We must find a way to hasten family unification when one family member is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident;

  • Reform temporary worker program: Help ensure a permanent residency program for temporary workers, support programs that strengthen family unity of temporary workers, support wages and benefits that don't undercut domestic workers;

  • Broad-based legalization opportunities for existing undocumented workers;

  • Restoration of due process to ensure that immigrants' legal rights and liberties are protected.

This National Migration Week, I encourage all to become more proactive in supporting the rights of migrants in our country by addressing a call for an end to immigration workplace raids and becoming more learned on the connection between Catholic social teaching and immigration.

  • Embrace the call of Bishop John Wester, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration. On Sept. 10, 2008, he wrote, "I call upon the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and President Bush to re-examine the use of worksite enforcement raids as an immigration enforcement tool. The humanitarian costs of these raids are immeasurable and unacceptable in a civilized society." We all have the opportunity to contact President-Elect Obama and express a desire for him to deliver an executive order banning workforce immigration raids; please see http://change.gov/page/s/immigration.

  • Attend the 7 p.m., Jan. 22 public meeting at St. Willebrord's Fr. Ken De Groot Center on immigration raids. Hosted by JOSHUA, Brown County's community organizing unit, Bishop David L. Ricken is a featured speaker. The evening will help enlighten people on the immigration raids issue and provide for some direct action opportunities.

  • Participate in the JustFaith JustMatters study circle on immigration, "Crossing Borders: Migration, Theology, and the Human Journey."

For information about a circle in the Fox Valley, contact Penny Robinson, Sacred Heart Church, Appleton, (920) 364-0079; e-mail [email protected]. For a circle outside of the Fox Valley, contact Br. Steve Herro, (920) 272-8299 or (877) 500-3580 Ext. 8299; e-mail [email protected].


(Norbertine Br. Herro is director of social concerns for the Diocese of Green Bay.)


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