2003 Annual Report: Keeping Families Together
Message from CLINIC’s Board Chairman and Executive Director
Catholic social teaching recognizes the right of a sovereign state to control its borders in furtherance of the common good. The common good cannot be furthered, however, by denying migrants their God-given rights, including the right to support themselves, to flee persecution, and to live with their families. The Church supports the improvement of conditions in immigrantsending countries that would obviate the need of their nationals to leave. However, when a nation can no longer meet the basic necessities of its residents, they should not be denied the right to migrate. Newcomers, in turn, must be treated as equals, as “us” in fact.
Since 1988, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) has embodied Church teaching on migrants and newcomers. Among its many programs, CLINIC supports the nation’s largest network of community- based legal programs for immigrants, most of them located within Catholic Charities’ agencies. These programs reunify families, protect those who fear persecution, secure work authorization, and help lawful permanent residents to become U.S. citizens. In short, their work reflects the Catholic imperative to treat newcomers as our “brothers and sisters.”
CLINIC’s work is challenging given the historic level of immigration to the United States, the complexity of U.S. immigration law, and increasingly restrictive immigration policies. Among other problems, application backlogs and processing delays mean that even those who qualify for legal status face multiyear periods of separation from their spouses, parents, and children. Under such circumstances, many choose to honor their moral commitment to family and live in the United States without proper documentation. The government’s response has been to tighten border controls. This approach has failed to deter migrants from entering the country, instead forcing them to cross the border in remote desert regions where hundreds have perished. The Catholic Church in the United States supports a broad legalization program, coupled with a more generous and efficient immigration system. Legalization would allow newcomers to contribute more fully to their chosen country. It would also allow the U.S. to screen undocumented residents and would decrease the number of senseless deaths along the border. Of course, CLINIC’s network would play a crucial role in such a program, assisting the many millions who now live in the shadows. It is a role that CLINIC is uniquely qualified to fill and a challenge that it looks forward to embracing.