Woodstock Theological Center in our nation’s capital sponsored a November 3 forum titled “Honoring Human Dignity and the Common Good: A Catholic Approach to Immigration Reform.” The impressive panel of speakers included Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Octavio Gonzalez of Stanford Law School, and Donald Kerwin, Jr., of the Migration Policy Institute, a preeminent think tank on immigration policy issues. The main speakers and other interlocutors brought much knowledge and first-hand experience to this important topic, and this Georgetown University event serves as an illuminating reminder of the close association of our nation’s Catholic community with all aspects of immigration. Most Catholic families in the United States today trace their roots to an era of less restrictive immigration policies, and Catholic agencies and institutions are on the front lines in serving and advocating for the most recent immigrants to this land.
For all the laudable principles and profound insights regarding immigration policy raised by this forum and others like it, one unspoken source of discouragement cast a wet blanket over the proceedings. Immigration reform is seriously overdue, and the prospects for rapid progress on legislation are anything but bright. Revising our laws to remove serious irrationalities in how individual migrants as well as families are treated by our legal system is extremely urgent, yet the issue is repeatedly deferred due to policy stalemate and distressing capital gridlock. Relegating immigration reform to an ever lower place in the cue of Congressional priorities leaves millions of people in legal limbo, living in the shadows of our cities and rural communities and unable to plan their lives and contemplate a path to full membership in American society. The Catholic tradition may hold a privileged place in understanding the rights of immigrants, and the Catholic community may be rendering unsurpassed service to the needs of immigrants, but what we most need at the moment is legislative leadership that recognizes the urgency of progress on this crucial issue. Congressional action on immigration reform is long overdue.