March 26, 2009
According to news accounts, the so-called “minutemen” are planning to stage demonstrations today and tomorrow at a conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, which will bring together church people to discuss the need to reform our nation’s immigration laws. Why? What is it about this gathering of the faithful that compels the group to protest?
No matter one’s attitudes toward immigrants or immigration policy, we can all agree that our current immigration laws are outdated and that the immigration system is, at the very least, dysfunctional. With this as a starting point, it is a shame that we are throwing barbs at each other rather than opening a dialogue to find common ground upon which we can start to fix what is broken.
Perhaps it’s caused by a lack of understanding.
What people from the Church have come together to discuss is how to solve the immigration problems currently facing our country. The principles guiding their deliberations are straightforward. First, there should be adequate legal means for reuniting families and then keeping them together. Second, employers should first look to the domestic labor market for workers, but once it is determined that a labor shortage exists, legal means for filling those job openings with foreign workers should be available. Third, having a large population of people here without legal authority is good neither for this nation nor for the immigrants involved. Those individuals living in this country without the proper immigration documents should be afforded an opportunity to come out of the shadows and, unless they have been convicted of crimes or are otherwise inadmissible, get on a path to full participation in our society.
The vision of those gathered this week to develop strategies for reforming our immigration laws and policies is to restore in our country a welcoming spirit and hospitable attitude. Guided by Catholic teaching and inspired by Jesus’ demand that we “welcome the stranger” the folks in Cincinnati are hopeful that, going forward, our nation’s approach to immigrants will better reflect the humanitarian instincts of Americans.
My hope and prayer is that the minutemen demonstrating in Cincinnati will come to see that the Church is about reasonable and just laws, not open borders or disregard for the rule of law. All people of good will and people of faith should be able to find common ground in this public policy debate. If we cannot do so, we will continue down the path of frustration and anger caused by the effects of a broken system. And, in the meantime, we risk losing our identity as a nation that stands for freedom, opportunity, and hope.
Mark Franken is executive director at Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.