Opportunity to deepen faith, take action on Immigration Sunday

Statewide Immigration Sunday Minnesota is being held again on the Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord, which is Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013. This year’s observance is significant considering that 2013 may be one of the best opportunities for comprehensive immigration reform in more than a decade.

In 2009, the bishops of Minnesota inaugurated Immigration Sunday to encourage Catholics to reflect on our responsibility to welcome migrants and undocumented workers into our communities, and to educate ourselves about enacting comprehensive reform of our nation’s immigration laws that protects human dignity and the well-being of immigrant families.

In other words, we are presented with a two-fold challenge of faith and action: to first better recognize that “the reality of human solidarity, which is a benefit for us, also imposes a duty” (“Caritas in Veritate,” 43); and then, to ask ourselves how we, as individuals called to faithful citizenship, can be part of fixing this country’s broken immigration system in 2013.

Pilgrimage of faith, hope

The right of people to migrate is listed as a fundamental human right in the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution “Gaudium et Spes” (no. 65). However, it is a right often exercised out of necessity, not choice. It often begins in poverty, fear or trauma — typically due to persecution or violence.

As Pope Benedict XVI noted in his message for the 99th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, “Migrations: pilgrimage of faith and hope,” migrants have no choice but to accept through faith that they will “encounter acceptance, solidarity and help, that they will meet people who sympathize with the distress and tragedy experienced by others, recognize the values and resources the latter have to offer, and are open to sharing humanly and materially with the needy and the disadvantaged.”

The enormity of this need requires that we look beyond the many charitable services that the Church offers to migrants and refugees to something deeper. In his message, His Holiness urges us to “promote real integration in a society where all are active members and responsible for one another’s welfare, generously offering a creative contribution and rightfully sharing in the same rights and duties.”

This task is particularly important as we celebrate the Year of Faith. The pope notes that “[h]uman promotion goes side by side with spiritual communion, which opens the way ‘to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the only Savior of the world.’ The Church always offers a previous gift when she guides people to an encounter with Christ, which opens the way to a stable and trustworthy hope” (“Migrations: pilgrimage of faith and hope,” 2013).

Through better understanding the spiritual goods of our faith, the Church has promoted, and often opened new paths for, the development of temporal goods. Socio-economic problems can be resolved only with the help of all forms of solidarity — between rich and poor, among nations and people (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1941-2). Through God’s grace, spiritual communion with our immigrant brothers and sisters can help us better understand authentic Christian solidarity.

2013 immigration reform

While solidarity with immigrants begins through spiritual communion, it is manifested by our public actions — from charitable services to public advocacy. And, the nation’s bishops are hopeful that comprehensive immigration reform could move forward in 2013.

In light of the significant bipartisan support for immigration reform emerging after this past election season, the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, Archbishop José Gomez, issued a statement calling for the newly elected Congress to enact bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform. For this to happen, Catholics will need to make our voices heard on this issue.

As one commentator recently described it, the current U.S. immigration system is a “Frankenstein” of intervening fixes that are “internally inconsistent, impractical to administer and impossible to navigate rules” that hurt employers, workers, and families, here and abroad.

The Church’s public advocacy typically involves articulating the principles upon which sound public policy is based. In some instances, the Church will advocate for particular pieces of legislation or work to enact legislation with certain key elements. The bishops believe any comprehensive immigration reform package should recognize these principles:

  • Persons have the right to seek economic opportunities in their homeland; conditions ought to be such that persons can work and support their families in dignity and safety;
  • Persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families when they are unable to find work and therefore are unable to support their families at home;
  • Sovereign nations have a right to protect and control their borders for the common good;
  • Refugees and asylum seekers should be afforded protection; and
  • The human rights and human dignity of all persons, including undocumented immigrants, should be respected.

We encourage you to read or re-read the full immigration statement from the bishops of Minnesota to better understand the Church’s teaching on immigration. It can be found on the mncc.org “Immigration Sunday MN” webpage.

Then, join MCC’s Catholic Advocacy Network (mncc.org) for updates on how to take action. It is vital that we communicate to our congressional representatives that comprehensive immigration reform is needed immediately.

Jessica Zittlow is communications associate with the Minnesota Cath­olic Conference.

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