Recent Blog Entries
- New Americans Campaign comes together for Citizenship Drive in Los Angeles
- Ushering in a New Season for CLINIC and our 11 Million Undocumented Neighbors
- Living in God's Image, Embracing the Immigrant
- Lent: A Reform of the Heart
- Immigration Policy and New Estimates of the U.S. Unauthorized Population
- A Lenten Call to Embrace Acts of Charity
- CLINIC Holds Unique, “Mega” Workshop Training Event in Los Angeles
- Do Immigration Laws Deny Religious Freedom?
- Joyful Anticipation
- Las Posadas: An Invitation to Hospitality
CLINIC Executive Director on Cuba, Policy Changes, and Migration
April 22, 2009
From the earliest days of our nation’s founding, the Catholic Church has provided welcome and support to immigrants as they transition to life in their adopted homes around the country. These efforts in the United States are part of the Church’s global concern for migrants everywhere. For more than 30 years, I have had the privilege of being part of this tradition through my work at Catholic Charities, Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and CLINIC.
The Church supports all immigrants and refugees--regardless of the reasons behind their migration--because of its fundamental commitment to the dignity of the person and their God-given right to pursue their full potential. Still, discovering what motivates people to leave their homelands and seek new lives abroad can be helpful in shaping policies that provide durable, long-term solutions to seemingly intractable problems.
Cuba offers a particularly salient example. Its citizens have been suffering from a lack of freedom, democracy, and respect for human rights under an oppressive regime for decades. As a direct result of these so-called “push factors,” hundreds of thousands of migrants have fled Cuba to seek new lives in the United States and elsewhere.
While the Church has provided direct support to Cuban immigrants and refugees in the United States, it has also taken a strong stance against the travel restrictions and economic embargo put in place by our government. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has rightly recognized that these restrictions do not reduce—and may actually reinforce—some of Cuba’s push factors by restricting dialogue and interplay between Cuba and the United States:
Many decades of U.S. imposed isolation have not had any discernible impact on the current regime. As was the case before the fall of the Berlin Wall, engagement and cultural exchange can be agents of change, not isolation.
Our faith and Church teachings command us to welcome and accept migrants into our communities--but they also tell us that the best solutions are those that reduce or eliminate the push factors that drive people from theirs. According to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI:
The fundamental solution is that there would no longer exist the need to emigrate because there would be in one’s own country sufficient work, a sufficient social fabric, such that no one has to emigrate.
It is under this vision of long-term global justice that Bishop Howard Hubbard, in his capacity as Chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, wrote a letter applauding President Obama’s relaxing of travel restrictions and remittances to Cuba. Bishop Howard also urged the administration to go further and lift all travel restrictions, noting that:
Improving the lives of the Cuban people and encouraging human rights in Cuba will best be advanced through more rather than less contact between the Cuban and American people.
It is my hope and prayer that the Obama administration will pursue not only fair domestic immigration policies, but also just foreign policies that contribute to a world in which people have the option to remain in their home countries with the opportunity to support their families and live in freedom.
Mark Franken is executive director at CLINIC.
CLINIC welcomes your thoughts and comments. When leaving comments please stay on topic and be respectful of others. CLINIC reserves the right to remove posted content that is defamatory.