Jan. 8, 2009
The Vatican’s Fides News Agency released a dossier this week analyzing the current state of immigration in the United States. The Vatican expressed its support for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for having consistently advocated for immigration reform that assures the human dignity of migrants and takes into account the wellbeing of their families.
What is particularly interesting is how the dossier integrates principles of Catholic social teaching with a brief history of immigration in the United States to make its case. Fides points out that the U.S. has a long history of accepting and integrating immigrants when politically and socially feasible–and scapegoating them when public opinion changes for the worse.
Indeed, the current rhetoric in the United States about immigration seems to parallel previous circumstances. In the nineteenth century, for example, Chinese migrant workers were tolerated when they provided much needed manpower to construct the transcontinental railway, but faced discrimination, intimidation and even murder when they tried to find work in other sectors.
And yet, the United States has managed to successfully integrate many millions of immigrants, who have time and time again strengthened America’s economy and made its society more vibrant.
Fides notes that this integration has never been easy or fast. It has, however, been possible. If, as the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops hope, America uses the principle of human dignity to develop a new approach to immigration, it may well be able to leave intolerance towards immigrants in the past.