Immigration reform now

By | April 28, 2010

This weekend, around the country, rallies and marches for or against immigration reform will take place, including in Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Chicago. And it is certainly a heated topic as we witnessed in the recent passage of Arizona’s anti-immigrant bill, signed into law on April 23. The law makes it a misdemeanor to be caught without legal documents or proving residency status and allows local police to stop anyone with “reasonable suspicion” that they are undocumented.

Norbertine Br. Steve Herro, diocesan social concerns director, has asked The Compass to let our readers know that the U.S. bishops’ Justice for Immigrants Campaign is calling parishes to dedicate part of their prayers this weekend to the intention of comprehensive immigration reform.

As Cardinal Justin Rigali said at a Mass for Justice for Immigrants last October, “The cruel fragmentation and insidious instability effected by the displacement of peoples are founded in sin, that is, the disobedient refusal of man to acknowledge that God alone is the Lord of life. From sin comes division, and from division comes suffering. The Lord Jesus calls us to love those who suffer. He calls us to welcome those who are cast aside. He himself abides with those who are suffering.”

Immigration reform is not easy. There are many justice concerns for all involved. But as followers of Christ, we are called to welcome the stranger and aid those less fortunate than us. We cannot forget that our nation is one built largely by immigrants and in that we have often found our strength. After all, we are the “United” States. Many times in our past, we have been divided: federalist against anti-federalist, supporters of states’ rights over federal government backers, North against South, black against white. My grandmother’s family was Irish Catholic from England and when they arrived in Chicago early in the last century, they were laughed at and even attacked for “talking funny.” But they survived, and later flourished.

We in the United States have always overcome our differences, flourished and become stronger in the long run.

It must be the same today with immigration reform. Immigrants of all types contribute to our nation. The Social Security Administration reports that, over the next seven decades, immigrants will contribute more than $611 billion into the system. And that does not count the contributions of undocumented workers.

Scriptures are rich with the stories of immigrants and refugees: from Abraham to Joseph and his brothers who went to Egypt to flee famine, from Moses to Naomi and Ruth, and on to the Holy Family fleeing the persecution of Herod. The names and faces have changed, but the trials of immigrants remain the same. And the call of the Lord to welcome strangers also remains: “You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt” (Lv 19:33-34).

Let us become informed and work for justice on this issue. Then we will be able to hear, as the rest of the just will hear when the Lord judges the nations, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35).

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