The following statement was released by the Archdiocese of Boston Nov. 22, the day after President Barack Obama announced a package of administrative actions on immigration.
Immigration is not primarily a political problem, but rather a deeply human and profoundly moral challenge facing our nation. Obviously, a fair and just resolution of the immigration question will require a political solution. The Catholic Bishops of the United States support comprehensive reform of our immigration laws, a more accessible path to citizenship for the undocumented and an adequate response to the needs of our country and of the immigrant community.
The long-term goal is clear; but the political process has not been able to move forward. We leave the constitutional and political issues to those entrusted by office; only they can provide a comprehensive resolution. Our primary focus is on the undocumented families, the men, women, and children now stranded in a legal void, living on the margins of our society, in fear of being discovered and deported – either individually or as families. The moral question is about their lives, their needs and their future.
The President’s executive action this week is not a long-term solution to the challenge of immigration reform. But it will provide much needed immediate relief to millions of families and their children. We support that relief because extending further the ambiguous and untenable status of the undocumented will be greatly harmful to these individuals and families.
The Catholic Church in this country will continue to be deeply committed to a long-term, fair and effective reform of our immigration system. There is a consensus in the nation, across party lines and political affiliation, that the system is dysfunctional – “broken” is the consensus judgment. The Catholic population in the United States has always represented an immigrant Church, and that is the case today. The origins of the immigrant population have changed since many of our forbears came to this country. But the essential reality, that a Church of immigrants has been welcome in this nation of immigrants, remains true.
The Catholic Church has a well established history of responding to the needs of immigrants by providing services through our schools, hospitals and social service agencies. We do not seek to be simply commentators on the problem; we place our institutions and our community in service to people in need. While we have addressed these issues for more than two centuries, we have been given new inspiration and leadership by Pope Francis. In word and deed, the Holy Father has consistently called the attention of the world to the plight of immigrants. He asks for respect for their dignity, assistance for their needs and a secure foundation for their future. The Church in the United States can do no less.
In the Archdiocese of Boston our primary means of responding to the immigrant community are our parishes, which welcome individuals and families who have come here from countries throughout the world, and our Catholic Charities.
In light of the executive action taken by the President, Catholic Charities of Boston is preparing to respond in the following way:
– After instructions issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Catholic Charities will provide information and outreach sessions to immigrant communities. It will do this in cooperation with other local agencies and with local city and state governments.
– Catholic Charities has established a multilingual information line (617-464-8004) which will be updated as new information about application guidelines is made available by DHS.
– Once the application process is established, catholic Charities will provide legal consultation and application assistance throughout the Archdiocese of Boston.
In the face of this daunting and complex challenge we face as a nation, it is my hope and prayer that we will keep human dignity and the welfare of children and families at the center of our attention.