The Bishop on Immigration
Bishop Thomas Tobin’s latest Without a Doubt column (still not yet online), which he frames as a Q&A on the Church’s teachings with respect to [illegal] immigration, avoids the questions in which Roman Catholics who disagree with the bishop are most interested. Indeed, the answers stop frustratingly short of the actual dispute, veering aside with everything following the “instead” :
Does the Church promote and support illegal immigration?
“No. The Catholic Church does not support or encourage illegal immigration because 1) it is contrary to federal law and 2) it is not good either for society because of the presence of a large population living outside the legal structures or the migrant … Instead, the Church is advocating changing a broken law so that undocumented persons can obtain legal status in our country and enter the United States legally to work and support their families.” (USCCB Statement on Comprehensive Immigration Reform)
In short, illegal immigration is a bad deal for everyone — for our country and its citizens, for legal immigrants, and for those who have entered the country illegally.
The faithful are left with no guidance as to the view of the Conference of Catholic Bishops regarding the number of “undocumented persons” permitted to “enter the United States legally,” or even the criteria and emphases that ought to be considered as public representatives determine the specifics. If the law is “broken,” it sounds an awful lot as if the bishops believe fixing it means turning it into little more than a means of processing applications, not of judging civic value.
Yes, the response is easy to anticipate: It isn’t the place of a government to judge the value of a human being. But that’s clearly a dodge. All human beings are of equal value in an absolute sense, but some bring more to the table, or are just a better fit for current socio-economic needs of the nation. As an employer, the Church judges between candidates for particular jobs and does not tangle itself into moral knots deciding whether it is making a declaration of their inherent worth.
And so the debate goes on, with the bishop sounding more like a voice for one side of a political dispute than a beacon through which all sides can find their way out of contentious circumstances:
Immigrants who came to our land without proper documentation did so, in most cases, for positive reasons.
How does Bishop Tobin respond to we who find something stealthy in his presentation of such immigration as a matter of misplaced paperwork? Illegal immigrants didn’t merely fail to file the appropriate documents; they didn’t receive permission, and I suspect, if pressed, the bishop might concede that such permission is the right (the responsibility) of a political entity to grant and, sometimes, to deny.