Welcoming Our Immigrant Sisters and Brothers
Minnesota Catholic Bishops’ Statement on Immigration
December 12, 2008
Every day, throughout the world, tens of thousands of our sisters and brothers leave their homelands. Many flee in order to escape persecution, torture, famine and oppression. Others set out in search of greater opportunities for themselves and their families. Today we call to mind the immigrants and refugees who have come to Minnesota.
Most of us have immigrant ancestors. We have heard their stories at our tables and family gatherings. Such stories are a vital part of Minnesota’s history, and they reveal that we are all one family and responsible for one another. Today, we, the Roman Catholic Bishops of Minnesota, want to share our hope for:
- Newcomers journeying in search of greater opportunities for themselves and their families;
- Communities enriched by the many contributions of newcomers; and
- Advocates working for justice and reform.
In our pursuit of justice, we must work together to transform hearts, minds and communities.
Minnesota has welcomed many immigrants and refugees. However, we are alarmed by the anti-immigrant sentiment that is dividing our communities. Daily, we hear statements that contradict principles of Catholic social teaching. We witness the exploitation and isolation of our migrant, immigrant and refugee sisters and brothers. Mothers and fathers are forced to leave their children, spouses are separated from one another, and families are uprooted from their homes. Our communities suffer, too. Children lose friends and classmates, cities lose neighbors and businesses, and our churches lose parishioners.
Jesus calls us to welcome the stranger and reminds us that whatever we do to one of our brothers and sisters we do to him. We are called to recognize Christ in every newcomer and to respect the dignity of all human beings, regardless of their legal status. We must recognize that legal status is a human construct. People have a right to leave their countries of origin when persecution, famine or war threaten their lives and their rights to work and worship. When people make the difficult decision to leave their homelands in search of a better life for themselves and their families, we are called to assist them.
Minnesotans have a long history of opening their arms to immigrants. We have welcomed many newcomers from Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America. Over 100 dialects are spoken in our communities. The Church’s resettlement programs have helped Minnesota welcome one of the highest numbers of refugees in our country.
Though many immigrants have sought solace in Minnesota, their dignity and safety are often threatened. The harsh enforcement of federal immigration laws pushes many of our immigrant sisters and brothers into the shadows, and makes them more vulnerable to workplace intimidation and abuses. Fearing deportation and further exploitation, they are reluctant to report the injustices they endure.
Enforcing current law, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers have raided homes and businesses in various communities throughout Minnesota. As a result, many of our sisters and brothers were separated from their loved ones. Another serious problem facing our state is the human trafficking of both children and adults, many of whom are immigrants. During the last three years, more than 1,000 labor and sex trafficking victims have been identified.
While we recognize our nation’s right to maintain secure borders, we oppose policies and practices that separate families and fuel suspicion, fear, intimidation, hatred and violence. Echoing our brother bishops across the country, we renew our call for comprehensive immigration reform and strategies to reduce global poverty. Just and equitable immigration policy, based on the principles of Catholic social teaching, would:
- recognize the inherent dignity of every human being;
- seek to reunite, stabilize and strengthen families;
- ease the path to citizenship for our undocumented sisters and brothers who are living in the United States;
- provide access to basic necessities;
- embody due process protections; and
- reflect an awareness of the social, political and economic causes of migration.
We invite all of our sisters and brothers to join us in promoting compassionate and just immigration reform of our broken immigration system. By embracing newcomers and sharing our abundance, we pray that justice will prevail.
Archbishop John C. Nienstedt
Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner
Diocese of Crookston
Bishop John M. LeVoir
Diocese of New Ulm
Bishop Bernard J. Harrington
Diocese of Winona
Bishop John F. Kinney
Diocese of Saint Cloud
Reverend James B. Bissonette
Diocese of Duluth, Diocesan Administrator