Last Thursday, the day after the Feast Dayof Saint Joseph the Worker, I had the pleasure of meeting with Representative John Campbell of Irvine. I was joined by Theresa Smith of Catholic Charities, diocesan leaders and other passionate advocates working toward just and compassionate immigration reform. I was pleased to take this opportunity to share my own family’s immigrant story and the Church’s love and respect for all people, no matter their country of origin and the central importance of immigration reform as an economic and social justice issue. The Church annually turns to St. Joseph on this day to ask his intercession for all those who labor. This year, as Christians we give our attention to the role of the immigrant worker and their families in our American society.
St. Joseph was an immigrant. By necessity he had to abandon his home, taking Mary and the child Jesus to a foreign land. St. Joseph throughout his many trials trusted in God’s providence and faithfully provided for his family. The plight of Joseph and the Holy Family in the gospel according to Matthew is mirrored repeatedly in the lives of many immigrants and refugees who have come to the United States.
For many years the Church has advocated for comprehensive reform of the nation’s immigration laws. I shared this history with Rep. Campbell and the California Catholic Conference’s support for the current senate legislation. The Catholic Church is dedicated to compassionate immigration reform that respects human dignity.
We believe that the necessary elements for reform ought to include:
1. An earned path to full legal status, and eventual citizenship, that is reasonable and attainable;
2. Provision for immigrants brought here as minors to swiftly gain legal status to continue their education and enter the workforce;
3. The reduction of immigration application backlogs so that families may be united more quickly;
4. A temporary worker program that is safe, workable for families, and fair to all workers, immigrants and non-immigrants, alike;
5. Restoration of due process protections restored for all immigrants involved with the immigration justice system;
6. The protection of refugees and unaccompanied immigrant children; and
7. A way of addressing the root causes of immigration.
Together in prayer we ask the Lord God to inspire our legislators to accord all immigrants their human dignity and create a process that integrates these tenets.
We call on Catholic parishes in the Diocese of Orange to remember the poor and marginalized in our society, particularly undocumented families. Pray especially for those workers who are in any way exploited or demeaned in their labors. Pray for a just and compassionate immigration reform that will enable immigrant workers to join with us in making America stronger and safer.
We also encourage Catholics to study the Church’s teachings on the issue of immigration reform. Information can be found on the website: www.justiceforimmigrants.org .
The late John Paul II, was a tireless advocate on behalf of immigrants and refugees. His words to us in 1995 still carry a moral urgency for us today:
“‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’ (Matthew 25:35) Today the illegal migrant comes before us like that ‘stranger’ in whom Jesus asks to be recognized. To welcome him and to show him solidarity is a duty of hospitality and fidelity to Christian identity itself.” -Pope John Paul II, Annual Message for World Migration Day, 1995.
+ Bishop Kevin Vann