The Catholic Spirit: Archbishop, panel urge support for immigration reform

Father Joseph Williams remembers taking a tough stance on illegal immigration in 1990 when he was a high school student participating in a classroom discussion on the topic. Those who crossed the border without documentation, he argued at the time, should be deported.

The pastor of St. Stephen in Minneapolis, a mostly Latino parish, now says he was on the wrong side of the debate back then. He had a change of heart when he began ministering as a priest to Latino immigrants.

“I met the Latino people, and I fell in love with them,” Father Williams said. “By the mystery of God’s providence, I was called to serve them and I discovered a very humble, hard-working and lovable people.”

“Nobody wants to leave their homeland,” he said. “If you leave your homeland, it’s because there are desperate social or economic or political situations where you came from.”

Father Williams was part of a panel discussion on faith and federal immigration reform Sept. 4 hosted by Archbishop John Nienstedt at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis. Other participants at the event, organized by the Minnesota Catholic Conference, included business leaders and public policy advocates advocating for comprehensive reform of an immigration system widely acknowledged to be broken.

Archbishop Nienstedt reiterated the Church’s longstanding support for reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, keeps families together, restores immigrants’ due process rights, and addresses the root causes of migration.

Watch online: Watch Archbishop Nienstedt’s opening remarks at the forum on The Catholic Spirit YouTube page.

“The Catholic bishops of Minnesota and around the United States have long been concerned about the nation’s immigration policy,” he said. “It is inconsistent, ineffective and fails to promote the common good.

“Each day in our parishes, social service programs, hospitals and schools, we witness the human consequences of a broken immigration system: families are separated, workers are exploited and our fellow human beings perish in the desert,” he said. “Every immigrant is a person, a daughter, a son, a mother, a father. Each of those persons possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected.”

Christians have a responsibility to welcome the foreigner out of charity and respect for that person’s dignity, Archbishop Nienstedt said. Supporting legislation that helps repair the immigration system is part of that responsibility.


“Like the Good Samaritan, we should see all people, including immigrants and undocumented workers as children made in the image and likeness of God,” he said. “These are indeed our brothers and sisters.”

Read the full story at The Catholic Spirit.

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