Immigration reform revisited

By | December 15, 2011

Today, the Virgin of Guadalupe is being summoned again to comfort and protect immigrants from Mexico and all of Latin America who seek to establish new lives outside of their native homes, including in the United States.

Two groups of U.S. bishops chose the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dec. 12, to issue pastoral letters on immigration.

In their letter, “Traveling Together in Hope,” the five bishops of Wisconsin called on all Catholics to better understand the plight of undocumented immigrants and “commit ourselves to helping resolve the pressing immigration crisis.”

Thirty-three U.S. bishops of Hispanic descent also issued a pastoral letter on Dec. 12. It was directed at undocumented immigrants living in the United States. “We open our arms and hearts to you, and we receive you as members of our Catholic family,” they wrote.

Knowing that illegal immigration is a polarizing issue, the bishops of Wisconsin urged Catholics to resist bigotry. Instead, they urged people to see the issue for what it is: a complicated matter made even more so by outdated immigration laws.

“We have to acknowledge that some of our foreign and domestic policies and practices have contributed to the illegal entry of immigrants,” they wrote, adding that the need for immigrant labor in Wisconsin is undeniable, especially in the dairy industry.

Tough economic times only complicate the situation, they stated. “Many who fear for their jobs see immigrants as competitors. Others worry that immigrants threaten our culture.”

But followers of Christ, who was himself at one time an immigrant, must avoid prejudice. Instead, Catholics are called to uphold the sanctity and dignity of human life, including the lives of documented and undocumented immigrants. “Just as we work to protect the innocent unborn, … so we cannot turn our back on the 12 million immigrants in our midst who long to live freely and fully,” the bishops wrote.

Nearly 500 years ago, the Blessed Mother — appearing as Our Lady of Guadalupe — brought hope and solidarity to a dispirited people. Today she continues to intercede and give hope to immigrants.

As the 33 Hispanic bishops wrote in their letter to immigrants, “Have faith in Our Lady of Guadalupe, who constantly repeats to us the words she spoke to St. Juan Diego, ‘Am I, who am your mother, not here?'”

As we anticipate the observance of National Migration Week, Jan. 8-14, 2012, let us offer prayers for immigrants, whose sacrifices we may never understand, that they may find welcoming neighbors in their new homeland. Let us also pray that comprehensive immigration reform and a path to legal citizenship become a reality in the new year.

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