This message was written by Bishop Anthony B. Taylor to mark the Catholic Day of Action for Immigrant Children July 18 in Washington, D.C. A portion of it was read during the event on the Capitol lawn.
Greetings to all who are participating in the Catholic Day of Action for Immigrant Children.
I want to express my support for your efforts to convince the administration that they must stop demonizing and detaining children and families who pose no threat to anyone. The images of those who have suffered and died trying to make their way to freedom “cry to the heavens,” in the words of our USCCB leadership. Our faith calls us to oppose this cycle of violence.
Most of these refugees and asylum seekers come here fleeing desperate circumstances in their country of origin and are parents who have an obligation before God to protect their children and provide for them. If they cannot do so in their place of origin, they have the right — and at times, the obligation — to migrate to a place where they can fulfill these parental responsibilities. This right is rooted in the dignity and transcendence of the human person as created by God.
Human rights are inherent in the human person. Societies can regulate the exercise of these rights for the common good, but societies cannot licitly deprive us of these rights because they come from God and so do not depend on recognition by the state.
The most fundamental of these rights is the right to life and thus the right of access to the basic necessities of life: food, clothing, shelter, basic medical care and decent employment that pays enough to provide for one’s family. This includes the right to immigrate to attain these necessities if desperate circumstances so require.
Most of the refugees and asylum seekers at our southern border come here fleeing desperate circumstances and seek only a place where they can live in peace and provide for their family. They are people like our own immigrant ancestors, many of whom came here fleeing desperate circumstances in the past — no one immigrates because things were going great in their home country.
And since many of us would not even be here today had our own immigrant ancestors not been able to come here in their time of distress, we now have an obligation to do all that we can to help our brothers and sisters who are dealing with desperate circumstances in the present.
This Day of Action focuses on Immigrant Children, the most vulnerable of those who are being traumatized by the actions of our government, separating them from their parents, often neglecting their most basic needs, but the same principles apply to adults as well.
In 2008 I wrote a pastoral letter on the human rights of immigrants, which discusses this topic in greater detail, including 1) immigration as an intrinsic human right, 2) the legitimate role of national borders, and 3) when unjust laws lose their binding force. If you are interested, you can download it from the Diocese of Little Rock website (dolr.org/bishop/i-was-a-stranger).
Sadly, not much has changed in the last 11 years, certainly not for the better. So, as you advocate for immigrant children today, don’t forget that what we really need is comprehensive immigration reform that welcomes immigrants — especially refugees and asylum seekers, facilitates their adaptation to life in the United States and provides an easy path to citizenship.
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