Archbishop O'Brien on A Hard Hearted Approach to Immigration

A Hard Hearted Approach to Immigration

“The U.S. bishops have long advocated for comprehensive immigration reform that keeps immigrant families together, adopts smart and humane enforcement policies, and provides undocumented immigrants with a set of rules by which they can earn legal status and begin a path toward citizenship. Surely this is a better path than the one Arizona has just taken.”

It is kind of sad that it doesn’t occur to the Archbishop that the least of Latin-America’s people aren’t served by illegal immigration either. Those who can afford to pay criminal smuggling cartels (thus providing material support for prostitution, drug distribution, kidnapping, and murder) get to come here en mass. Those truly disadvantaged lack the means to even sneak across the border. Rewarding illegal border crossings is a slap in the face of the law-abiding as well as those unable to illegally immigrate due to Mexico’s own border controls, physical disability, or poverty.

Confusing the issue of Sanctuary / Refuge with the issue of immigration doesn’t do the Bishop’s argument any credit either.

The rights of citizens and legal immigrants to be secure within their borders is not outweighed by the desires of those nearest-by (in one of the most free and prosperous American nations south of the U.S.A., might I add) to seek material wealth and free social services paid for by the law-abiding.

Since the good Bishop is taking exception with matters beyond his See (calling out Arizona), perhaps he could take some time to criticize the abuses in Mexico and the greater portions of Central America that help fuel this terrible business? And make no mistake - this is a business.

Do we need immigration reform? Certainly! Should immigration reform be focused on rewarding law-breakers and creating a preferential option for Mexican Nationals that advantages them vastly beyond those suffering under oppression in the Middle East, China, South East Asia, or Africa? Certainly not! Should immigration reform be based around short-term benefits for people who fill up the pews in Catholic Churches in America at the expense of the middle-term and long-term interests of the States? Again, no it should not.

A closed mind and a soft-heart that bleeds most only for what is put immediately in front of our eyes is a recipe for moral and practical disasters guided by Sentiment, not Charity. Caritas in Veritate warns us against making bleeding-heart judgments without considering deeper consequences.

  • Marty Lund

Why is almost everybody here so anti-immigration? I could understand if some were, but when you have almost 70-90% of posters staunchly espousing that position, you have to really wonder if some of them aren’t drinking the right-wing talk radio Kool-Aid or being unduly influenced by their (often Protestant) Republican politicans.

At least from Mexico, those immigrating across the border illegally DO tend to come from the poorer classes of that society, and the money sent home in the form of remissions helps immensely. Also, although Mexico is indeed one of the wealthiest nations south of the border, much of the wealth there is (perhaps unjustly) concentrated in the hands of a few.

Excellent observation.

It’s the haves vs. the have-nots.

There are plenty of people making a lot of money off the backs of illegal immigrants. That’s the real reason we just can’t seem to get a handle on the situation.

What the Archbishop is doing is what every bishop has done so far…draw attention to the way in which the Arizona law violates Church teaching, as expressed in Unity and Diversity, an official statement by the United States’ bishops, as well as in the Papal social encyclicals over the last 150yrs or so.

The root problems leading to emigration and the exploitation of emigrants has been addressed by the Latin American bishops, but nothing about it would make the Arizona law just. Clearly the injustice of the American law is a more immediate concern of American Catholics, since it is in our own backyard; and something over which we have a much more direct influence.

This is right on target. If anything you would think that the bias would be to follow the American bishops, but that is clearly not the case here.

Events over the last few months have shown the extent to which so-called conservatives amongst the Catholics have been compromised and the disdain they have for the teaching office of the bishops when the bishops are not serving their political ends. This is, already, something one has become used to seeing amongst so-called progressive Catholics, but it is not something one would expect from a group that repeatedly attacked the so-called progressives as ‘cafeteria Catholics’.

Unity and Diversity, the official document from the American bishops, is not that hard to understand, the American bishops have repeatedly called people’s attention to that document and stated clearly that Arizona is not in accord with Catholic teachings. They have also pointed out how Unity and Diversity, which is already magisterial teaching, is one with the teachings of the universal Church as expressed in the Papal social encyclicals over the last 150+ yrs. And the reaction from the so-called conservative Catholics has been almost nothing but hostile.

It is very disheartening.

Why is it that if someone is against illegal immigration you immediately classify them as against immigration in total? There are people who support legal immigration.

Maybe you could answer why there is this tendency to lump those who are against illegal immigration with those who are against *all *immigration.

I know many, many people, *including *legal immigrants (such as several with whom I work and several in my parish, including a deacon and a priest), who are vociferously opposed to illegal immigration, while it is *rare *to see one who is opposed to all immigration.

There are a few bishops who make the distinction (Abp Gomez, coadjudicator of LA, and Abp Chaput, Abp of Denver, are examples); but the majority of you take the position of Card Mahony and Abp Dolan. When you take that attitude, it is impossible to deal with you or discuss the issue.

So perhaps you could tell me why you take this ridiculous position that opposition to illegal immigration is opposition to all immigration. More importantly, perhaps you could ask yourself that question.

Perhaps the Bishop or yourself can tell me what immigration law Arizona has passed. I suspect that you can’t, because Arizona has not passed an immigration law. If you are interested in the actual Arizona law, here it is.

After reading the actual text, could you please point out to me where it establishes any immigration laws? I have read it a couple of times and all it does is require state and local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal laws.



Our country, our sovereignty, is precious and should be protected as if an endangered species.

If someone walked into your house uninvited and started using your property, would you not ask the police to remove them? How is this any different? I’m all for immigration, but do so legally. Acquire an SSN, pay taxes with me and learn the language and customs… Do not come here and demand respect. Respect is earned. You’re more than welcome to come to the USA, but respect her and her people.

I’m so sick of the true progressives turning this around on people opposed to illegal immigration. It’s illegal - that’s why we’re against it. God also instructs us to repect the law of the land.

It’s absolutely disgusting that Arizona’s neighboring countrymen seek to boycott her for making laws to protect her citizens. You’ve all lost sight of what so many have died to give us Freedom, Liberty and a Nation of Laws to protect her people.

I pray that sanity will soon return to this country.

I have not read the document which you quote. However, I believe that a lot of “progressives” within the Church, including some Bishops, incorrectly merge two issues to confuse Catholics into supporting the progressive political position, and call this “social justice”.

The first issue that is lumped together is “Does the Gospel require me to help the poor?” The answer to that is “absolutely!” No conservative, Catholic or not, would disagree with this. If a poor person shows up on your doorstep or the Church doorstep, we are absolutely obligated by the Gospel to give them some food, shelter or whatever necessity they have.

The second issue that is lumped together with the first, I believe wrongly, is “Does the Gospel obligate a nation to accept every person who wants to immigrate there, legally or illegally, if that person is poor in his native country?”

The answer to this question is “absolutely not!”

Romans 13:1-7 Tells us that we must obey the earthly ruler because his authority comes from God. “Do you wish to be free from fear of authority? Do what is right…Only if you do wrong shall you be afraid. It is not without reason that the ruler carries the sword, he is God’s servant to work for your good.”

Jesus himself said to render to Ceasar that which is Ceasar’s.

The governor of Arizona, and its legislature passed this law to protect the citizens of Arizona. The conduct of illegals has become a burden and a threat to the economic and even physical safety of the people of the state. It is the citizens of Arizona that the governor has responsibilty to, not the Bishops.

It is not “social justice” to let the law go unenforced, while your citizens are kidnapped and murdered by people engaged in illegal behavior.

It is not “social justice” to allow public schools intended to be for the good of your citizens who pay their property taxes to be watered down to accomodate non-English speakers so that everyone gets a substandard education.

It is not “social justice” to burden emergency rooms and close them down because they have to treat people who do not or cannot pay.

It is more “hard hearted” to permit all these things in favor of illegals, and impose all the burden on people who have worked hard to do everything “legal”.

I am not anti immigration. My wife is an immigrant, but we have complied with all the rules and paid all the fees, onerous though they are.

I think the original poster needs to read the “Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition”

“Immigrants are obliged to repsect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens”.

“The Church because of her commission and competence, is not to be confused in any way with the political community.”

ILLEGAL immigrants are breaking the law. Legal immigrants are not.

This is the beauty of this Catechism since it contains the sum of our required beliefs on faith and morals. No matter who writes anything, it must conform to the Catechism.
We are not required to conform to group or personal beliefs of others.

In accuracy, the Catechism contains much more than that which is included in this email on the topic of immigration. Each person must read it themselves since it is too long to post.

It also mentions not obeying laws that are contrary to the moral order and natural order (such as mass murder, etc)

Great post, but I want to add an addendum. The text of SB1070 was amended by HB2162 on the 30th of April:

  • Marty Lund

I think you are actually being very unfair…unjust…to disparage anyone who is against illegal immigration. You could help the dialogue on the critical and the substantive aspects/issues…on how to deal with the illegal immigrants and their families (the laws, the policies, etc.)…if you would address what people are really saying…rather than classifying them as less than Catholic, conservative-right wingers or other ad hominem and disparaging comments. Also, judging a person’s heart on why they are taking the position is pretty far out there…regarding Catholic teachings…judge what they (actually) say…but not their heart…you simply don’t know what you are saying!

Your cited document…the USCCB’s Unity and Diversity is 10 years old…take a look at USCCB’s Comprehensive Immigration Reform of document of 2009 I think it is quite goodbut you have to acknowledge all that the Bishops have said.not just about the rights of immigrants…but the rights of the Sovereign nation and its authority/ laws for the common good…with the end game being to do everything possible to welcome and support those who are here in need and want to do good for themselves and their families…coupled doing good for the Country and the local communities. Here are three excerpts on these points…

USCCB Position

The United States Catholic Bishops Conference (USCCB) believes that meaningful immigration reform must properly balance the right to migrate and the right to regulate migration. Thus, the USCCB opposes “enforcement only” immigration policies because they lack proper accommodation of the right to migrate. Instead, the USCCB supports “comprehensive” immigration policies that pare valid enforcement laws with fair and generous legalization measures. The U.S. Catholic Bishops have outlined various elements of their proposal for comprehensive immigration reform…:

The first duty is to welcome the foreigner out of charity and respect for the dignity and rights of the human person. Persons have the right to immigrate and thus government must accommodate this right to the greatest extent possible, consistent with its other obligations to the common good. The right to immigrate is a therefore a qualified, rather than an absolute right. Nevertheless, all nations and especially financially blessed nations are called to make every possible effort to assist persons who are compelled by their circumstances to migrate. As the Catechism states:[INDENT] "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.” 1


The second duty of government is to secure its border and enforce immigration law for the sake of the common good, including the safety and well-being of the nation’s inhabitants and the rule of law. Sovereign nations thus have the right and the responsibility to enforce immigration laws and all persons must respect and obey the legitimate exercise of this authority. For their part, immigrants are called to obey the law and carry out their civic duties in furtherance of the common good. 2 According to the Catechism:[INDENT] “Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens." 3

[/INDENT]I would bet that 90+(%) percent of those whom you have classified as causing you to say…*.It is very disheartening…*actually agree with the full scope the USCCB’s position on immigration reform. How about you…do you agree with the USCCB’s position?

For your consideration…

Pax Christi

What Archbishop O’Brien actually did, albeit less egregiously than Archbishop Dolan, was simply to slander those who support the new Arizona law. More significantly, however, you grievously overstate the meaning of the comments the bishops have made.

The law does not violate any Church teaching nor have the bishops claimed that it does.

I don’t deny that this is what they imply, but the implication is false. The reason why the law does not violate any Church teaching is that the determination of the proper balance between the rights of the immigrant and the rights of the State is a prudential decision that is properly made by the State. Bishops may disagree with the State’s decision as to where the balance is made, but their prudential disagreement does not constitute Church teaching.

Events over the last few months have shown the extent to which so-called conservatives amongst the Catholics have been compromised and the disdain they have for the teaching office of the bishops when the bishops are not serving their political ends.

It is rare to hear anything from a bishop except when it serves his political ends and these comments on immigration are certainly no exception.

And the reaction from the so-called conservative Catholics has been almost nothing but hostile.

If you consider it hostile to show righteous indignation at being uncharitably judged by bishops of the Church - who, among all of us, ought to know better - then so be it. Perhaps if they didn’t start the conversation with a poke in the eye it would proceed more amicably.


I asked this several times without reply. With all the bishops who have spoken out on this issue of late, does anyone know of a bishop that has supported the Arizona initiative? I only ask because we are Catholics.

“Persons have the right to immigrate”

Since when? Where is this right conferred, either in Scripture or the U.S. Constitution, or in any country’s constitution?

Would you support reforms to the immigration law that would let more people in?

Sure, anti-illegal immigration then…but the vast majority of people who are anti-immigration (meaning opposed to a large part of immigration) are anti-illegal immigration. In addition to being against illegal immigration, they are typically against reforms to the immigration laws that would allow more people across the border LEGALLY.


Because of our declining fertility rates (we are less than replacement now), of course we need to allow people to come into this country. BUT, the rate needs to be carefully established so that neither the immigrants nor existing workers can be taken advantage of due to a surplus in the availability of labor in certain skill sets (to include not only doctors and engineers, but laborers btw).

In addition, though, I think that programs for migrant labor needs to be made more robust, allowing those workers who wish to come here temporarily to work and send money home but have no interest in becoming permanent residents can be accounted for (both for these workers’ protection and for the protection of society). In those cases, I think that prospective employers should have to put up a bond for their prospective employees.

Finally, I think that we need to be able to provide some sort of refugee status for those people who come here for refuge, but, again, only plan to stay while the situation at home is dangerous (I think of refugees from, for example, the drug wars in Mexico, the genocide in Darfur, or the persecution of Christians in Iraq). I know that such a program exists, but it is also inadequate. Frankly, what I would like to see in those cases is refugee camps established to get the people out of their situation quickly and to acclimatize them to living in the US, prior to turning them out on the streets. I would think that some sort of sponsorship program would be needed for those people after the point in time that they are in a camp and are to assist them as they are moved in a community to help them adjust to life in the States. There are, I am sure, enough church-based groups out there to accommodate that type of adjustment. Of course, if a person / family is here on a refugee visa has adjusted well to life here and wish to stay, I would think that one of those visas should be able to be adjusted to a residence visa (i.e., working toward permanent residence and naturalization) fairly easily.

However, prior to the last two being implemented, I would think it would be wise to modify the language in the 14th Amendment to eliminate the possibility of “anchor babies” forcing the hand. (Such language would not include those who were here legitimately as immigrants as opposed to migrant workers or refugees, though).

Now, you may not agree with the above, but is that such a horrible position to take? Does that make me a xenophobe?

Sure, anti-illegal immigration then…but the vast majority of people who are anti-immigration (meaning opposed to a large part of immigration) are anti-illegal immigration. In addition to being against illegal immigration, they are typically against reforms to the immigration laws that would allow more people across the border LEGALLY.

No, you’re not a xenophobe, and I kind of agree with your position. What I wonder, though, is why there are SO many staunch opponents of illegal immigrants here, as there are SO many self-proclaimed capitalists, etc. … just so many people who agree with everything their conservative politicians and talk radio show hosts say because they believe abortion and gay marriage are wrong.

Safety, Security, and the fact that ILLEGAL immigrants are law breakers. They do not respect the laws of our land, as they are required to do.

All non-citizens are required to carry Green Cards (or other paperwork) on their person at all times per Federal law.

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