A couple months ago I wrote about immigration and the presidential contest at the website BustedHalo.com, where I touched on the DREAM Act:
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops went on record in favor of the DREAM Act, with Los Angeles’s Archbishop Jose Gomez writing:
The United States is a great country because it is a land of opportunity, family values, and compassion. Throughout our history, we have given newcomers the opportunity to work hard and be successful, to our country’s substantial benefit. We have also placed a high premium on the integrity of the family unit. And, we have refused to punish the innocent among us.
The bishops, speaking for the Catholic faithful, are clear in their support for humane and comprehensive immigration reform that respects the rights of the individual, the family, and the community. While recognizing that nations have a duty to secure borders to protect the common good, the bishops write:
Persons have the right to immigrate and thus government must accommodate this right to the greatest extent possible, especially financially blessed nations: “The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.” Catholic Catechism, 2241.
Now, a prominent US bishop, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, has added his voice to the conversation about the DREAM Act in a letter printed in the Miami Herald. Republican US Senator Marco Rubio, whose name appears on many lists of potential VP nominees, has introduced a version of the DREAM Act that would eliminate the provision of the current bill that offers the children of undocumented immigrant a path to citizenship. Wenski questions the wisdom of this compromise, writing:
However, denying bright young people an opportunity to earn citizenship isn’t the right way to go.
Why create a more or less permanent underclass of people who, while enjoying a certain legal status, are unable to become fully American by accessing the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship?
These young people were brought to this country by their parents — some as infants. They are totally at home in America. They speak English, and many have excelled in school. Our country has already invested in them through public education. As citizens they can contribute to the common good of the only country that most know. They think and act like Americans, why can’t we allow them to dream like Americans?
As Rubio knows from the proud legacy of his immigrant parents and from so many of his constituents who are naturalized Americans, access to the America dream comes through citizenship.
Immigration remains an area where the Catholic Church must continue to offer prophetic witness, and Archbishop Wenski’s letter is encouraging.