Immigration Reform

Here we go again!

Anyone who does not believe that “history repeats itself” has only to take a look at the unfortunate new law in Arizona.

Throughout American history, whenever there is tension and turmoil in society — economic distress, political rifts, war, distrust and confusion in culture — the immigrant unfailingly becomes the scapegoat.

It’s a supreme paradox in our American culture — where every person unless a Native American, is a descendent of immigrants — that we seem to harbor an ingrained fear of “the other,” which, in our history, is usually the foreigner (immigrant), the Jew, the Catholic, or the black. (cf. Religious Outsiders, by R. L. Moore, or Immigrants and Exiles, by K. Miller).

So we can chart periodic spasms of “anti-immigrant” fever in our nation’s history:  the Nativists of the 1840’s, who led mobs to torch Irish homes and Catholic churches; the Know-Nothings of the 1850’s who wanted to deny the vote to everyone except white, Protestant, native-born, “pure” Americans; the American Protective Association of the 1880’s and 1890’s who were scared of the arrival of immigrants from Italy, Poland, and Germany; the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920’s who spewed hate against blacks, Jews, Catholics, and “forn-ers”; the “eugenics movement” of the 1920’s and 1930’s who worried that racial purity was being compromised by the immigrant and non-Anglo Saxon blood lines; and the Protestants and Other Americans United of the 1950’s who were apprehensive about Catholic immigrants and their grandkids upsetting the religious and cultural concord of America.

And, here we go again!  Arizona is so scared, apparently, and so convinced that the #1 threat to society today is the immigrant that it has passed a mean-spirited bill of doubtful constitutionality that has as its intention the expulsion of the immigrant.

What history teaches us, of course, is that not only are such narrow-minded moves unfair and usually unconstitutional, but they are counterproductive and harmful.

Because the anti-immigrant strain in our American heritage, however strong, is not dominant.  Thank God, there’s another sentiment in our national soul, and that’s one of welcome and embrace to the immigrant.

That’s the ethos we New Yorkers are most at home with, as we look out at the Statue of Liberty, whose torch of welcome has caused tears of joy in the eyes of millions of our grandparents as they arrive exhausted and nearly desperate, and as we today live next door to Latino, Haitian, Asian and mid-eastern neighbors.

That’s the ethos most especially a part of the Catholic — the word means everybody — culture, which has been a spiritual mother to immigrants to America, who were and are mostly Catholic, who have found a home in parishes and schools which helped get them moved-in and settled in America.

From even a purely business point of view, a warm welcome to immigrants is known to be good for the economy and beneficial for a society.

To welcome the immigrant, to work hard for their legalization and citizenship, to help them feel at home, to treat them as neighbors and allies in the greatest project of human rights and ethnic and religious harmony in history — the United States of America — flows from the bright, noble side of our American character.

To blame them, stalk them, outlaw them, harass them, and consider them outsiders is unbiblical, inhumane, and un-American.

Yes, every society has the duty to protect its borders and thoughtfully monitor its population.  The call is to do this justly, sanely, and civilly.

My brother bishops in Arizona worry this is not the case there.  They have been joined by Cardinal Roger Mahony, Jewish, other Christians, and various civic and human rights groups.

I’m on their side.

I want history to repeat itself — but the “Statue of Liberty side,” not the Nativist side.

P.S. I thought you might be interested in a presentation on immigration reform that will be given at Fordham University on Monday, May 3. Cardinal Mahony will speak on “Our Heritage & Our Future: Why Enacting Comprehensive Immigration Reform Is a Moral Imperative.”  Click here to view details on his presentation.

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67 Responses to “Immigration Reform”

  1. Irene says:

    Will the USCCB be issuing a statement condemning the Arizona law? That would be helpful to Catholics everywhere, especially those in Arizona and in states contemplating similar legislation.

  2. The folks of Arizona are scared of illegal immigrants. My family came to this country legally. We cannot divide those two realities. Compassion for those families being killed by the illegal immigrant populations coming to kill in the name of drugs, that is fear. If our government will not defend our borders, the states must.

  3. Janelle says:

    While I do appreciate your words I will agree to disagree. This bill is not mean spirited, nor is it an attempt to persecute the poor immigrants. There are laws in this country and while they are not perfect (they could never be), God does not call for us to break the law because we don’t agree with it or the time frame is too long. There are legal ways to come into this country and they should be used. Not everyone will gain access, life is not fair – we were not promised that it would be. No one is advocating for the mistreatment of illegal immigrants, human rights are a basic right that we should afford everyone. Civil rights are reserved for the people of this country, it is obvious that if you are willing to break the law from the onset that you will have no problem doing so again. Arizona has had MANY problems that result from illegal immigrants and they have a right to protect their people (legal residents of all races) as the Federal government has not been doing their job.

  4. Greg Lamatrice says:

    I will not disagree with the Archbishop. I would only point out, as the great-grandson of immigrants – that in all of the great immigration events that he mentions, the immigrants in question came in through government points/ports of entry, were registered, screened for health issues, etc. I have no issue with immigrants, but there should be an established set of rules by which America welcomes the immigrant but also rules by which the immigrant abides. Is the issue one of immigration per se or is it legal vs. illegal and the state, and thereby its taxpayers, are being inundated/forced to provide benefits to persons not paying into the system?

  5. Jason says:

    I encourage the Archdiocese to reach out to national TV media outlets (especially those obsessed with the demonization of the Church via the sex abuse scandals) and offer Archbishop Dolan as a guest willing to speak on the immigration issue.

  6. Thomas says:

    Bless the Good News. God saves!

  7. Christopher says:

    I am really undecided on how I feel about this whole issue. On one hand, I respect the fact that we are all sons and daughters of immigrants, with the exception of the American Indians, and so there is a sense that we need to be sensitive to those who are in search of a better life and brighter future in the United States.

    On the other hand, I’m not sure that I would necessarily consider this bill in Arizona to be “mean spirited.” There are the residents of Arizona whose safety we certainly need to be concerned about; I don’t hear that mentioned often in the discussion. It is their safety the state (and federal) government needs to be concerned with, along with their property, crops, livestock, etc. Additionally, 60%of the drugs that enter the US come in through Arizona which is huge national problem. So perhaps it is with good cause that the people of Arizona are “scared” and believe this is a priority.

    I’m not sure why the focus is almost exclusively directed at protecting the “rights” of those who have entered the country illegally. Stemming the violence, the crime, the drug trafficking is the responsibility of elected officials and law enforcement. Additionally, the state bill states that it is “to be implemented in a manner consistent with federal laws regulating immigration, protecting the civil rights of all persons and respecting the privileges and immunities of U.S. citizens.” It is not as if Arizona’s governor is just acting on a whim. All this legislation did was make it a state crime to be in the country illegally; it is already a federal crime (8 U.S.C. § 1325). Why isn’t anyone calling that a racist? I think it is because the federal government has been so impotent in dealing with the issue that no one views the federal government as doing anything serious about it; therefore, they get a pass. Additionally, the state bill “requires the person’s immigration status to be verified with the federal government pursuant to federal law.” So it is not as if some backwater sheriff is the sole authority on someone’s immigration status; it is still the federal government that determines a person’s eligibility.

    I just really don’t feel either side of the argument is doing a good job of presenting an accurate justification for their position; however, my initial feeling is that if the governor of Arizona did a better job of stating her state’s position (i.e. crime statistics, financial data related to immigration, etc) then I would be more inclined to their position.

  8. Gary J Sibio says:

    The archbishops comments are based on the media reports of this bill which have been misleading at best. The bill does not discriminate against anyone. It only allows the police to investigate the legal status of someone they are investigating for another reason. Illegal aliens have no right to be in this country in the first place so their rights are not being infringed upon.

    Before you condemn any political entity for wanting to get the illegal alien problem under control, maybe you should take a look at what illegal aliens are doing to this country.

    I’m all for immigration as long as they enter the country legally. We have to know who is entering the country. We need to make sure they are healthy and have no criminal record.

    I work in a parish which has a large number of legal and illegal Mexican immigrants. I’ve talked about this issue with some of those who are here legally. They want tighter controls on illegals also. They would like to get their relatives into the country, but the illegals are making that more difficult.

  9. Marla says:

    I would like to respectfully point out that legal immigration and illegal immigration are not the same thing. Perhaps we should do something to reform our immigration laws, and perhaps I do not understand the Arizona law well enough, but it does not seem to me that the citizens of Arizona are being unfair.

  10. Claudia says:

    Why are we Catholics supposed to be more concerned for the villians than the victims when it comes to illegal immigrants? Why are we being pushed to support those who break the laws of our nation all in the name of corporal works of mercy? With all due respect to the archbishop and every other Catholic leader who advocates support for those who come to this country illegally—I am not going to pretend the laws of this nation do not matter and I will not pretend those who are here ILLEGALLY are simply victims of \mean spirited\ laws.

    If we start disreguarding the laws which we find inconvenient, how then do we teach our children to obey the laws of our Catholic faith which we find inconvenient or may not fully support or understand?

    I am deeply saddened that the leaders of my faith seem to be aligning themselves with human smugglers, drug dealers, and vile criminals …all in the name of \social justice\

    All support for the illegal aliens will accomplish is MORE illegal aliens, and every illegal person who comes to this country via Mexico comes through a coyote—to pretend otherwise is foolish.

  11. With all due respect Archbishop, while Mexico may be unsafe, unstable and undesirable, I’m not sure the best place for a Latina is necessarily in Arizona. Where healthcare reform has ushered in a new age for “reproductive freedom” paid for by the American taxpayer we will welcome across our borders new Mexican families and shuttle them to Planned Parenthood facilities to rob them of their hard-earned money , kill their mexican babies and place them on Depo Provera. Because we failed to elect a president and legislators that would have prevented this travesty, because we failed to live up to our baptismal calling to follow our conscience on such matters, the blood-letting expands now to all immigrants –especially the hispanic population– because our minds have not changed on this since the eugenics movement began. Yes, we have a problem that needs to be solved with immigration. Yes, the Jan Brewer bill seems to be a response to the killing, drug proliferation and ridiculousness of our current system to protect our borders from those who are not citizens here. But what, when, where, how will someone come up with real solutions rather than offer their criticisms? We may be sheep, but we are not dupes. We need life-affirming laws that actually do something. Prudentially speaking, what is wrong with enacting the laws that protect US borders? Ah yes..come to America where we can offer you coupons to Planned Parenthood.
    Karen Williams
    Phoenix, AZ

  12. Chris Lynch says:

    It is unfortunate that the AZ law is perceived as something new, because it is not.
    I live 35 miles from the California/Mexico border. EVERY WEEK you can see in the media that the federal authorities (used to be INS, now ICE) conduct sweeps of areas known to harbor illegal immigrants, put them on buses, and process them for deportation. Dept of Homeland Security – Customs and Border Protection does the same thing near my SoCal neighborhood, with its network of ships, airplanes, jeeps, cameras, microphones, etc. The same thing happens in Arizona.
    These people are put on buses to Mexico or airplanes to Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, or wherever. This has been going on every day for DECADES. So there’s #1–nothing new.
    #2: I have not heard any of the critics mention any country in the world where immigrants are not required to carry papers. Wanna go Mexico? Be sure to bring papers. How about the UK, or Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand? Bring those papers, you’ll need ‘em if you don’t want to be deported.

  13. William says:

    First of all, if this law can stop the illegal drug trafficking that is occurring so frequently across the bordering countries, then Arizona’s governor can’t have had purely mean intentions. This drug war is killing people on all sides of the fence.

    I do hope for some kind of immigration reform, but those who entered this country illegally have made it unfair for those who follow the procedures necessary to enter the country. To support this illegal activity is kind of like applauding someone for cutting in line when the people who got in line first have been waiting for hours.

    On top of it all, after entering illegally, these people who came seeking for a better life often get the worst working conditions, unfair pay, etc. And from my understanding, they do pay certain taxes (deducted before it gets into their paychecks), but are too scared to redeem many benefits for fear of being deported.

    This law, however, has way too much potential for abuse by authority figures and I do not see it lasting. Some reform is needed.

  14. Thank you for your words on this subject Archbishop Dolan. It strikes me that most Catholics, who do either agree or feel ambivalent about the Arizona law, might not really fully comprehend the heft of anti-Catholic protest that you present here. Legal or not, Catholics were reviled and hated. And it was in that very cauldron that our faith thrived in this land. There is a lesson there, but that is another story for another day!

    A few points about the draconian nature of the bill…

    One is that there are numerous Arizonans who are “brown skinned” (the use of that language causes me to shudder) and are of Mexican heritage. Their families have been in Arizona long before it was Arizona. Now they have to produce “proof” of who they are? I personally find that, as an American and as a Catholic, appalling. And I say this as a Catholic who had a Jewish father. I do not have to scratch the surface very far to think of my own relatives who had to carry and produce identification that ultimately lead to their own suffering and untimely deaths.

    To those who wish to say it is different, it is not. The good people of that time had many of the same “justifications” that I see here and elsewhere.

    Another point is that this burdens numerous already over-burdened law enforcement agencies in Arizona. Imagine that the NYC police would have to take this on… Think on that for a moment and imagine its implications.

    Who is speaking of the “rights” of those who have entered illegally? I don’t know about anyone else, but I think that this issue and Archbishop Dolan’s post are an invitation into a greater understanding of basic human dignity. We live in such perilous and punitive times; God have mercy on us all.

    My final point would be that we must all approach the topics that are most visceral for us and the things that make us uncomfortable with great curiosity and not just steadfastness. If we do so with our faith and the enormity of our great Catholic tradition, we might all be astounded as to where we are led. I remind myself of this as well as there are numerous issues that my faith challenges me to see with new eyes. Such is the process of our faith.

  15. Will Haun says:

    With great respect to the Archbishop, I think he steps beyond his competence here to his own embarrassment. Calling the Arizona bill “mean spirited” without actually demonstrating how it is so (especially when, in nearly every respect) it mirrors federal law is troubling – unless he’s prepared to argue that current federal law is also “mean … See Morespirited.” Even so, it would be worth pointing out what actually is “mean” about the bill.

    Additionally, arguing this bill is of “questionable constitutionality,” also without any additional citation is a bit much for me. I and others have read the bill a few times looking for sound constitutional arguments against it, and I’m hard pressed to find any winners at this point.

    Finally, I think the Archbishop’s comments, probably unintentionally, runs afoul of Rerum Nevarum and the dignity of the human person in a sense. Here he says “[f]rom even a purely business point of view, a warm welcome to immigrants is known to be good for the economy and beneficial for a society.” He’s right, “from…a purely business point of view,” it most certainly is – because illegal aliens (a distinction the Archbishop does not make in his post, to the point of conflation with legal immigrant) are seen as purely cheap labor by big business – an “economic unit” as Teddy Roosevelt warned against. This kind of mentality is not what the Catholic Church’s teachings should be condoning by using it as a secondary argument for amnesty, and the further erosion of national citizenship.

  16. David West says:

    I respectfully disagree with the Archbishop.There is a drug war going on in Mexico at this time perhaps the Archbishop would factor that into his decision making process regarding this issue. Arizona being on the very border of Mexico has to supply security and order for her citizens.Certainly the lives of people lost to the drug trade either when at war when bodies line the streets or when they are at peace with one another only to sell drugs to families are not advantageous or preferable to the Church. This is not a high brow political issue in regards to a European Enlightenment issue exclusively, there are base financial and egoistic demands that are met out by these groups which hold the average human life in the greatest contempt towards the accomplishment of those ends.
    I hope that the Archbishop may revisit this issue with this in mind.

  17. Sue Widemark says:

    Dear Archbishop Dolan, this OP is simply wonderful!!!!!! Not only are you an excellent writer but I truly feel you are so speaking from the Holy Spirit!! And you are courageous to publish this article and I, for one, really appreciate your courage! I have admired you for some time, but now I admire you even more and I have shared this article with all of my friends, mailing lists etc! I don’t know what it is which makes us so afraid of “the other” but you are so right…we are so forgetting things like the Statue of Liberty and the words…”give me your tired, your poor…” and our constitution! Well, you said it all! One visitor to our home said that “when we needed those undocumented immigrants, we ignored them here except to work them hard and pay them little and now that we think we don’t need them, we “suddenly” get “worried” about the law!”… and to think that most folks in the USA who are so upset about “illegals” “breaking the law” have gone over the speed limit, driven “under the influence”, pirated software and lied on their income tax forms! hmmmm I think Our Lord did address that issue when He spoke of “Whited Sepulchers”! Thank you so much for this wonderful article and for being you – you are such a blessing to all of us!

  18. Bev says:

    It has always been about the vote. Most of the democrates spin the story for power and do not intend to fix any problem. Drugs,murders and kidnappings require an honest look at the reality. It is much to simple to choose the “easy” side and do the politically correct thing. That is why planned parenthood and our tax dollars are being used to murder babies with the presidents’wink. It is time for the church to stop pleasing everyone and teach truth. Do not pick a side-teach honesty. It is unfortunate that this article spins one side and wants to simply make the problem go away by demeaning those who have the courage to face reality.

  19. Mary says:

    Immigration politics will be the death of us as a country and further divide the American Church. Immigration politics is a tool of the culture of death who deceive with language I am very unhappy that the Church is deceived into taking the side of Caesar.

    Recall the concept of “Newspeak” in 1984 — if you control the language, you control the way people express things, and therefore, ultimately, how they look at things.

    The Catholic Church is already characterized as anti-science. Our political culture got hold of the language during the stem cell wars and cleverly moved the language away (with considerable help from the like-minded media) from distinguishing between embryo and adult stem cells. Consequently, though we are only opposed to anti-life embryo destruction, we are portrayed as opposed to “stem cell research” in the public square.

    Pro-choice. Anti-choice. Not abortion. Not life. Get the language and control the argument.

    The Church is on course to do the same with immigration unless we carefully distinguish between illegal and legal immigration. The Arizona bill is about illegal immigration and the problems of border enforcement, crime, public safety and God knows what else in that state. Illegal immigrants. Not all immigrants. It is not about whether we are for immigrants or against them.

    Those of us not in conformity with the bishops on this issue should not be characterized as anti-immigrant, even in a subtle way. This is not the America that my immigrant grandmother and father raised their families in. It is a left-leaning, progressive, pro-death America getting worse by the day. It does not reflect Catholic values. It does not have God anywhere is the narrative. How long will it be before the immigrant unborn will be tossed on the altar of Planned Parenthood abortuaries in the name of progress towards the American dream? I will never agree to cooperate with the present political culture.

  20. Dwight Spivey says:

    Archbishop Dolan, you have been and still remain a hero of mine in our Church. However, I must respectfully state my extreme disappointment with this article. What is it about the term “illegal” that some people just don’t seem to understand? I welcome with open arms anyone who wants to immigrate legally, but I’m not so welcoming to those who don’t respect the laws of this country. If they don’t respect the immigration laws, who’s to say they will respect the remainder of federal, state, and local laws? Please explain to the faithful how you can reckon your opinion with Church doctrine and the laws of this country.

  21. David Cruz-Uribe, SFO says:

    My blessings go out to the Archbishop for taking such a forthright stand grounded in both charity and justice. I am continually saddened by the nature of the criticisms, since they are grounded in fear and half-truths.

    First, it is worth pointing out to many of the people who are justifying themselves as a child/grandchild/great-grandchild of immigrants: if you shake your family tree, something uncomfortable may fall out. My father immigrated to the U.S. in 1939; it was only after he died and we went through his papers that we discovered he was an illegal immigrant who got his status regularized some years after the fact. My wife discovered that her grandfather was an illegal immigrant who never got things sorted out.

    Third, in practice the Arizona law will be used to target Hispanics, and many of them will be US Citizens. I really doubt that an illegal immigrant from Ireland or Poland (among the largest groups of illegal immigrants here in CT) will be stopped or questioned about their citizenship if they are stopped. However, when this was tried back in the past, Mexican-Americans in LA were routinely stopped and asked for their papers. Cheech Marin ridicules this in his movie “Born in East LA”: the hero, who can barely speak Spanish, is deported because he can’t prove he is an American.

    Second, disabuse yourselves of the notion that illegal immigrants are here to rob, steal and murder. Most of them want jobs. As Barbara Ehrenreich said, you can only compare illegal immigrants to people breaking into your house if the people breaking in clean your bathroom and wash your dishes.

  22. Jim says:

    Your Excellency- please explain how the bill is –

    “mean-spirited”
    similar to the “KKK”
    “To blame them,
    stalk them,
    outlaw them,
    harass them,
    and consider them outsiders”

    Also, in New York there are not 500,000 ILLIEGAL Latino, Haitian, Asian and mid-eastern neighbors, they mostly came according to the law..I am sure there are a few illegals.

    The bill wants to enforce legislation against ILLEGAL immigrants. We are all for LEGAL immigration.

    “Do you imagine that a State can subsist and not be overthrown, in which the decisions of law have no power”~ Plato

  23. annmarie says:

    Dear Archbishop Dolan,
    I believe that you say what you do out of belief that it is the right thing.

    However, so do I. I live on the border. My great-grandparents were in Mexico in the 1800s and came to the United States in 1910, during the Mexican revolution. I look white though and because of that have an understanding of both sides of the issue.

    These facts have forced me to study the Church’s teachings on immigration. I know for a fact that I can, with the full authority of the Magisterial Church, disagree with you on this issue. And I do in spades.

    You need to be here to be able to fit the facts of the situation to the template of Church teaching.

    I will not go into it all. I would have to write a thesis. But if you give amnesty or if you allow these people to stay in the United States you will be doing the following:

    Imbedding the drug lords and the smugglers into this society permanently because every illegal and legal Mexican is related to them by blood, marriage or transaction and live in fear of them. That fear makes it impossible to turn them in, to fail to cooperate with them and to fail to pay them protection money for the family left in Mexico.

    Go beyond decimating Mexico. There are 12 to 20 or more million illegals in the U. S.
    If they get amnesty and each bring in two people pursuant to family reunification, that means 36 to 60 million people here from Mexico out of a population of 100 million. My Mexican relatives down there speak about the need for Mexico to wake up and quit sending their children out of the country thereby destroying the Mexican family.

    Failing to distinguish between refugees, asylum seekers and just plain illegal immigrants. The former deserve our hospitality to the extent we are able. The oridindary illegal alien does not.

    Failing as a Shepherd of all the people, including legal American residents, to support justice for all, such as the legal who has lost their identity or their job.

    Failing to speak out against the exploitive corporations who use these poor people for slaves and the pandering politicians who want them for votes.

    Failing to speak out on the whole of the Church’s teaching which says the first solution is to help the sending countries fix their own social problems (JPII and B16)

    We cannot afford this. Neither can the sending countries.

    Please rethink this issue and encourage your brother bishops to do the same. And please quit spending Catholic money on a negotiable social issue. Save it for the non-negotiables like abortion etc.

    Thank you.

  24. Rose Kehoe says:

    Great disappointment in Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan. Without the rule of law, there is NO social justice for anyone.
    It is so dishonest to speak of injustices against immigrants of the past who came legally and those illegally entering the country today, as though they were comparable situations.
    What about the civil rights of U.S. citizens being harmed and even murdered on their own property by illegals?
    The Archbishop makes it hard to have respect for him with such a dishonest statement.

  25. Jim Simon says:

    I am torn on this one, right to my core. Please help me to understand. Where does the rule of law begin and and where does it end, especially with respect to people illegally in this country? Is not the rule of law shattered the moment a person breaks the law by coming across the border without permission?

    My nephew is a border guard in southern California. The stories he tells are gut wrenching. He will tell you that a good number of the people are desperately trying to make a new life in America – some die on their way across, and many are within an inch of death and would die were it not for border guards finding them and hydrating them and being good Samaritans. But he will also tell you that a substantial number of people are seasoned, hardened criminals, drug traffickers and human kidnappers who, among many other heinous things, have killed his partner.

    If it is true that, \every society has the duty to protect its borders and thoughtfully monitor its population,\ then how can it also be true that those who seek to uphold the law are only doing so, \To blame them, stalk them, outlaw them, harass them, and consider them outsiders…\ After all, are illegal immigrants not \outsiders?\ Are they not \outlaws?\ No – blaming, stalking and harassing them is not the answer. But should they be allowed to stay? And what of the hardened illegal alien criminals conducting drug war operations in the streets of Phoenix? Allow them to stay as well? God is not only all merciful but He is all just as well, no?

    What of the millions who are legal immigrants (like the ones you herald in your letter and from which I derive my lineage — Irish and Lebanese)? Is it justice for them that an illegal alien is doing a job they should be doing? Is it justice for all of the thousands of \outsiders\ who are patiently and legally waiting to come to America that illegals are allowed to willy-nilly \jump the line?\

    I really am torn, and I really would love a world without borders. But then I remember that even Jesus wanted some things that he ultimately did not get: a repentant Judas, a converted bad thief, a merciful Pilate. In my heart, I really am torn between justice and mercy on this one your eminence, and your essay left me even more unsettled.

    I deeply admire your defense of innocent human life from the womb to the tomb and I completely respect your authority as teacher of the faith.

    Most Respectfully, in Christ,
    Jim Simon

  26. Irene Mehlos says:

    Dear Archbishop Dolan, Thank you for your leadership on this important issue. Just recently my local interfaith peace study group and the Holy Cross Sisters (their US Provincial here in North Central Wisconsin) hosted Sr. Barbara Pfarr from Milwaukee to help dispel some of the myths about immigration reform. The information she presented at a Catholic parish up here was described as “eye-opening and jaw dropping” by the parish leaders. They had no idea what was going on. Our immigration laws are antiquated. Many of the previous comments referred to undocumented immigrants as “illegals” and “criminals” for seeking the right to work to provide for their families survival. The solution to come in through the “proper channels” is not so simple, and for the most, impossible. You have to have a lot of money in the bank just to apply. The US State Department Visa Bulletin in Feb 2010 indicated that work visas applied for in 1992 were first being processed this year (an 18 year wait). Family visas applied for in 1986 during a special program offered for a few applicants in Florida have just now been approved, 24 years after applying. Some of the family members, parents of the works have since died. The majority of immigrants in our town are not criminals, but instead hard working people with strong faith and family values who have left desperate situations. Many immigrants have been recruited to work in jobs not desirable to American citizens-like certain restaurant jobs and agricultural jobs. They are often exploited. I’ve met folks here who receive $150/week pay for full time work or longer. That’s $3.75/hr, or less! Yet in Nicaragua I saw average folks who made less than that for a full day. In many cases our trade agreements have driven them off their farms or otherwise destroyed their ability to make a living. Crimes are committed against undocumented workers here in the US, but they have no recourse to justice. Comprehensive immigration reform is desperately needed now. Legalizing current unauthorized immigrants and creating flexible legal limits on future immigration would raise the “wage floor” and assure full labor rights that would benefit both American workers, immigrants and the US economy. As Catholics and Christians, we are called to act justly.

  27. Miguel Bamberger says:

    There’s a difference between LEGAL and ILLEGAL immigration. I came in LEGALLY. I had to wait in line. Is the church encouraging bypassing the legal system that so many others have followed? Is it because the Catholic Church is afraid that without the influx of ILLEGAL immigrants it won’t be able to pay its debts?

  28. Does the Bishop oppose obedience to public immigration laws? Has he missed Romans 13:5 and 1st Peter 2:13-14? All Arizona is asking is that if a person comes to Arizona from another country, then they come through legal channels and have their paperwork in order. Is this unjust? Is it unjust to arrest someone that has broken the law when the law itself is NOT unjust? What does CCC 1897 through 1899 say?

    1897 “Human society can be neither well-ordered nor prosperous unless it has some people invested with legitimate authority to preserve its institutions and to devote themselves as far as is necessary to work and care for the good of all.”
    By “authority” one means the quality by virtue of which persons or institutions make laws and give orders to men and expect obedience from them.

    1898 Every human community needs an authority to govern it. The foundation of such authority lies in human nature. It is necessary for the unity of the state. Its role is to ensure as far as possible the common good of the society.

    1899 The authority required by the moral order derives from God: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”

    Now none of us oppose LEGAL immigration. But we DO oppose ILLEGAL immigration. If I went to Mexico without a passport or other appropriate documentation, then I would be arrested and thrown in jail and rightly so.

    This liberal, progressive attitude that has infiltrated the Church has got to be extinguished. No one of us hates or disrespects Hispanics or Arabs or Indians or whatever. BUT each of us MUST follow the LAW. IF you do NOT, THEN you SHOULD get thrown into jail just as Romans 13:1-7 states.

  29. It seems to me that the people of Arizona have a right to expect that the nations laws will be followed. If the Federal government chooses not to protect our borders, the State may choose to follow the law. 70% of the people of Arizona want to live in a safe lawful environment … what is wrong with that. The Church should use its persuasion to correct the injustices in Mexico and elsewhere. Then there would be no reason for the millions to flee to here … against our laws. As they say, “Render unto Ceasar, etc.”

  30. John Cabaniss says:

    Sir: I consider your comments appalling. Nowhere did you even acknowledge that the issue the law is meant to address is illegal immigration. Why did you speak as if the law targeted all immigrants when you know that was not true? You also referred to the bill as mean-spirited. I was unaware that anyone, even archbishops, were able to divine the intentions of others. It would be rash judgment on my part to express such an opinion and I see no reason to believe the judgment is any less rash coming from you.

    Finally, I am most disturbed by what your statement naturally implies: that Catholics have an obligation to agree with it simply because a bishop has spoken. I wonder if you realize the position you bishops put us in. We have a moral obligation to assent to our bishop when he speaks on faith or morals but we have no such obligation when he offers his prudential political opinions. When you continually blur the distinction between the two situations you put us at risk of failing our moral obligation because we misjudge the character of your comments. I believe your statements here are your opinion, with which I respectfully disagree, but if I am wrong then you need to correct me. Am I morally bound to accept your comments? That is a yes or no question.

  31. Brian Mershon says:

    Arcbhishop Dolan. I am a faithful Catholic who tries in earnest to follow ALL of the Church’s teachings.

    This is NOT a matter of faith and morals. This has to do with following the duly constituted laws of our country an enforcing them.

    Certainly, the key principle is unavoidable. I just had a good friend from Colombia who completed all of the requirements of becoming a citizen legally–all of the costs and bureaucratic red tape.

    But you think that people who do not follow our laws–whatever their ethnicity–should be given a pass on our laws–even when it threatens the security of the inhabitants of our country?

    WHY do the U.S. bishops like you and Cardinal Mahony wade into areas of political and economic topics that are WAY outside of your competence? Repeatedly? For 40-plus years?

    Stick to teaching the Faith. There is NOTHING in our Faith about allowing illegal immigrants into our country and allow them to threaten the well being of those who are here legally. That is about as simple as it gets.

    It is not about racism or any other motivations you want to attribute to citizens of this country. It is about national security.

  32. Matt Mack says:

    Let me begin by saying that I’m a huge fan of Archbishop Dolan. I’ve watched him on EWTN and think he is a great Bishop. However I am so disappointed that he chose to issue this opinion on the Arizona Immigration law. There is no balance in his statement. There may be some flaws in this law but there are grave flaws and errors on the other side that led to this law. The law is a desperate act by the local community – the people of AZ – to establish some semblance of law and order in their state.
    How can it be unconstitutional to ask for identification or proof of legal status from someone when they are pulled over?
    Why can’t the Archbishop acknowledge that laws are being broken by illegal immigrants?
    This statement will only add to the fractured nature of this country’s discourse that is increasingly becoming pointless. Can’t we have any conversations anymore without resorting to name calling, labeling, and finger pointing? The Church should be the source of the reasoned, balanced, thoughtful analysis and guidance that comes after several slow, deep breaths.

  33. Sam Wood says:

    Your Excellency:

    I revere you as one who is an Apostle, one who is Jesus to us. What dismays me is that it seems there has been a slight shift in the discussion by the USCCB. The issue is NOT about racism or ethnocentrism, it is about legal vs Illegal status of immigrants. Yes, companies/corporations who use illegals in their work force need to be penalized for the abuse, but THEY promote the illegal immigration flow into this country and it must be stopped. But this is not an anti-immigration issue, it is as Brian says above, an issue of national security. And also, there needs to be enforcement of the current laws, and since our Federal government is not taking the bull by the horns, Arizona is.

  34. Marilyn says:

    Archbishop, I am a huge fan of yours and very grateful that your are the archbishop of New York. However, I think your statement on this bill is a little strong on one side without balancing the issues on the other side. There needs to be law and order in the state as well as in the Church for justice to prevail. There has been a failure on the part of the federal government to enforce the immigration laws and the consequence has been a breakdown in civil order in the border states. In Arizona there is a big problem with drug violence, kidnappings and human trafficking that is directly tied into lack of enforcement of our border. While I agree that we should not demonize anyone, the bishops need to come out with some positive advice on how to address this issue, not just say that it is wrong to enforce the law because good people may be harmed. We need to do something. It is also not fair to those who scrimped and saved to come into this country legally and have gone through all of the waiting periods required, that we turn a blind eye toward those who have avoided the legal process. If there is a danger in their home country, we have an amnesty proceeding that can be used.

  35. Kevin says:

    I respectfully disagree with the Archbishop and I am very much dismayed at the level of confusion that is being employed in this discussion by the media and others that are being swayed by their emotions.

    It is very reminiscent of the Stem-Cell discussion where Embryonic and Adult are intertwined to create a perception that being against the intrinsically evil Embryonic Stem Cell research is somehow being against Morally acceptable Adult-Stem Cell research. The same confusion is being sown here.

    We are speaking about illegal immigration not legal immigration. We would not be a country if not for legal immigrants. This is a fact that no intelligent person denies but it is scandalous to attribute this racist view to the supporters of the AZ and existing Federal Law. The people of AZ want their state back.

  36. Jennifer says:

    Your Excellency,
    I greatly admire and appreciate you and the gift that you are to our Church is this present day. I’m also stunned at your words, for I find them grossly unfair and insulting. It is not immigration that people object to but ILLEGAL immigration. If the laws concerning immigration can be broken and ignored, why obey ANY law of the U.S.? You say in passing that our nation has a duty to protect its borders, but how exactly are we permitted to do that? The current laws are not enforced and every attempt to strengthen them is met with charges of racism and inhumanity and accusations of hate and fear.

    The immigrants who came to Ellis Island seemed a very different sort. They came legally, they obeyed the laws, they built businesses, they learned the language, paid taxes and became citizens. They did not abuse and take advantage of the system. Now we have sanctuary cities that protect criminals who are here illegally. We seem to grant more protection under the law to illegal aliens than to our own citizens. When is it fair to say “enough is enough?”

    The Church expects her own laws and traditions to be upheld; why not the laws of our nation?

    How hurtful it is that you compare those who support this reasonable immigration law to the members of the KKK! No one wishes to harm any immigrant or persecute them because of their race or creed. We simply want our nation’s laws to be obeyed!

    I am dismayed that you would say with a mocking tone that Arizona is “so scared” that they passed a “mean-spirited” bill that solely aims to expel the immigrant. Have we already forgotten Robert Krentz, the rancher who was shot to death on his own property by an ILLEGAL immigrant? Of course the state is alarmed! They should be! But it is not mean-spirited to seek greater law enforcement, and it is uncalled for to accuse them of wanting to expel every immigrant. I don’t believe that is their desire, or the desire of anyone else in America.

    You seem to speak as though for the Church, and your words carry great weight and influence. If you oppose this legislation, be specific. Why? What exactly does it allow that is inhumane or mean-spirited? And tell us how exactly our nation is permitted to enforce its laws without violating the call to welcome the immigrant. Is there ANY obligation on the part of the immigrant?

    Please do not be so quick to portray those who support this law as anti-immigration. That is not the case. It’s about ILLEGAL immigration!

    God bless you and keep you.

  37. Sid Sanders says:

    With all due respect I must disagree with the comments made by Archbishop Dolan. He has become judge and jury and condemned this law and those given the responsibility of carrying out the law. It is obvious that he has not read the law. I am surprised that the good Bishop has come out with something that sounds more like a press release from the Obama Administration. I just read on a blog the following questions that the Archbishop should answer since he has thrown his hat into the ring:
    1. Is it moral for a state or the federal government to impose controls on immigration?
    2.Is it moral for the government to enforce such laws?
    3.Does the government have the moral right to deport people that have entered the US illegally?
    4.Does the government have the moral obligation to give illegal immigrants amnesty?
    5.Is it immoral to ask people to document or prove they are in the U.S. legally? If so, how is that different than a foreign government asking me to show my papers/passport and prove that I am in their country legally?
    6.Is it immoral for a government to deny FREE medical coverage to illegal immigrants for non-life threatening conditions.
    7.Is it immoral to deny illegal immigrants and/or their children access to our FREE public school system
    Our Church is under attack, why throw fuel on the fire?

  38. Irene says:

    I don’t understand the folks who make a moral distinction between our ancestors who came here “legally” and those who are now coming here “illegally”. Do you honestly think, our ancestors, desperate for a better life, would not have tried to come here even if it were illegal? As another poster pointed out, it is much, much harder to enter the U.S today than it was 100 years ago. Do we have the right to shut the door behind us once we’re in?

    Also, for people claiming that we in New York do not understand the illegal immigrant situation, they should know that New York (and five other states) have more illegal immigrants than does Arizona; we understand the issue here very well. We have not seen the need, however, for draconian legislation like that passed by Arizona.

    To me, it seems that the undocumented folks are the ones who are the victims; they are underpaid for their work and exploited because of their status. Rather than punish them, we should legalize them.

  39. Maureen says:

    We love you Archbishop Dolan.
    Although our culture has taken a nose dive into the gutter, people around the world still want to come here because they know many of us are no where near the curb but over on the grass playing frisbee. They know we work, we pray, we’re relatively safe and our standard of living is phenomenol.
    We must have rules. We must enforce rules. We have to have standards. We must enforce standards. We must teach what standards are and let people make a choice to live by them or by the consequences of not living by them. Rules must be clear.
    Immigrating to the U.S. used to mean following certain rules. My parents immigrated to America from Ireland in the late 1940′s and had to vouched for and a bond was put up. Their bondholders took an oath guaranteeing that they would guide these immigrants through to get their American citizenship and that they would make sure they got jobs. Three days off the boat my dad was working first as a sandhog and later took classes and tests and got a job with Con Edison; in one week my mother, equipped with bookkeeping and secretarial diplomas from Ireland, landed a job with the Archdiocese of New York.
    They both became citizens.
    To simplify: Look, everyone in the Archdiocese of New York would like to go to mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral every Sunday at noon. I know the Archbishop would love that, but it’s not possible. It is not possible for everyone in the world to come here either. It’s not possible for us to pay bills for people who do not chip in. It’s not possible or fair to continually allow anyone (a guest, a child, a man, a woman, a student, an immigrant) to take advantage of another’s kindness and think that that taker won’t turn into a rude, selfish, rotten, spoiled human being.
    Just look at what that kind of attitude has done to our society–who do you think those people are that are diving into the gutter and trying to entice others to join them?
    Coming here illegally cannot be rewarded. They have to go home. They have to take their American children with them. Then they have to apply. They can come if they are bonded by maybe the Catholic Church and/or other religious institutions if they have no legal relatives here and then follow the rules.

  40. While I agree with you, I am both curious and bemused by the dissenting commenters. How is church teaching right except for when one disagrees with it? And trust me – no one would easily call me a rule-bound person. (Not that I am breaking them either!)

    Dissenting commenters – do you think you know more than the good Archbishop? Perhaps you do, perhaps you do.

    Perhaps when we disagree with authority we should ask more questions.

    Or maybe just lean into our discomfort about what we disagree with and what we actually know about it.

    I say this as someone who is no stranger to disagreement. Expressing it is easy. Examining it and submitting to truth… Not. So. Much.

    Fascinating post and thread. Human dignity still hangs in the balance.

  41. Dwight Spivey says:

    A response from Archbishop Dolan to the comments on this page would be greatly appreciated by all, I’m sure. I understand he is busier than I can possibly imagine, but please don’t give us such an inflammatory and divisive statement and not respond to our honest and sincere comments on it. Thank you.

  42. Jodi Ziesemer says:

    Thank you Archbishop Dolan for your response to Arizona’s discriminatory and mean-spirited law. I work for Catholic Charities assisting immigrants with legal process in obtaining lawful status. As the Catholic church and those of us in the legal immigration community have long recognized, our nation’s immgration laws are broken. The law draws arbitrary distinctions regarding “legal” and “illegal” status. Although many parts of the United States government allows “illegal” or undocumented immigrants to pay taxes, attend schools, contribute to our society in many ways, the civil laws refuse to recognize these immigrants by granting them legal status.

    Not only is the Arizona law unconstitutional and un-American as Archbishop Dolan correctly points out, it also dedicates huge sums of tax payer money to finding and detaining people who are not criminals (residing in the United States illegally is a civil violation not a crime). This law will break up families, divert police resources from investigating and capturing actual criminals, and will ultimately do nothing to resolve the serious crisis our country faces with immigration laws.

    I applaud Archbishop Dolan for recognizing the true nature of this law and the human rights violations that it will engender. Thank you for speaking out for the least of those among us and giving a voice to the many Catholic immigrants whom this law will negatively affect.

  43. Betty Majeski says:

    Archbishop Dolan,

    I have such high regard for you. On this question, there is one thought that continually comes to my mind. The Catholic Church continually tells us how we
    should handle the immigration issue, however, I want to know, what is the
    Catholic Church (one of the largest political organizations in Mexico) doing to
    help improve the plight of the Mexican people in their own country. This is where
    reform MUST start!!

  44. Mark R. von Sternberg says:

    I am in entire agreement with Archbishop Dolan’s statement on the Arizona law. At a minimum, it constitutes an infringement of the federal government’s authority to regulate immigration which is derived from broad powers believed to inhere in nation states (and not their political subdivisions) by virtue of general international law. More importantly, the law also constitutes an effort to resolve the immigration controversy by means of the politics of attrition. Its potential for discrimination and abuse is manifest, as many commentators have pointed out. We should recognize that many individuals who have come here in undocumented fashion have done so because their own states were unable to maintain their social rights at a minimally acceptable level. Archbishop Dolan’s statement appropriately reflects the humanitarian and pastoral concerns which should be extended to these immigrants, rather than the condemnation which they have received under the Arizona statute.

    It should also be recognized that our current immigration laws really provide no avenue for these undocumented workers (who perform labor which is neither skilled nor professional) to come here legally. Reworking our immigration system to eliminate its unfair tendency to admit exclusively the skilled and the technically proficient would be an important step forward in the immigration debate and would help resolve the dilemma which has brought many these migrants here in the first place.

  45. Carr says:

    Thank you Archbishop Dolan for condemning this mean-spirited and harmful law. Although it may be true, as some have suggested, that when visiting Mexico and European countries, people carry their passport while site-seeing, but many more leave such documents locked away in hotel security boxes for fear their documents may be stolen. More importantly, if a British police officer has a “reasonable suspicion” that you’re American because of the way you’re dressed (Levi Jeans and Polo Shirt) and the way you talk, I seriously doubt the officer would approach you and demand proof that you’re lawfully in the UK. What documents do we carry now that demonstrate that we belong in the country – Nothing! No doubt the immigration debate is a thorny one, but The Arizona law will not solve the problem of undocumented immigrants, it will only overtax the resources of the state’s law enforcement agencies, as well as the state coffers because it will have defend the many lawsuits that are being filed to challenge the law.

  46. RecoveringFeminist says:

    My understanding of the Arizona law is meant for the ILLEGAL immigrant. Not the legal immigrant. I was disappointed that the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” was not appropriately cited, but below is #2241. Illegal is illegal, and the Catholic Church is clear in 2241 that foreigners are to obey a country’s laws, unless the law is against God’s Law. If someone’s first act in this country is illegal, how is that obeying its laws?

    2241
    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.

    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.

  47. Dolly says:

    Someone (I think it was Peggy Noonan) made the very good point that the experience of illegal immigrants in NY is not the same as the experience in AZ. Here in NY, we’re not dealing so much with drug and people runners, with coyotes. I understand your position, Bishop Dolan, and mostly agree, but I suspect we New Yorkers cannot fully understand what the border states are going through.

  48. Doug says:

    Most Reverend Archbishop Dolan,

    While I admire you profoundly I believe that you go too far in your criticism of this legislation… I don’t have to tell you that the Catholic Church has never taught and never can teach that a state may not enact reasonable legislation to safeguard its citizens. Your comparison of the good people of Arizona to the Eugenics promoters of the 20th century is not supported by the facts; it is nothing more than an Ad Hominem attack, which you know is only resorted to when a case cannot be made on other grounds.

    This legislation does not preclude immigration or even seek to curtail legal immigration; it only hopes to deal with the increasingly problematic issues that have arisen from illegal immigration in Arizona.

    I am surprised that you are ranting so.

    Respectfully,
    Doug P.

  49. Rich says:

    Archbishop, the Church is blessed to have you, and I appreciate all of your efforts and listen to you as often as possible on XM radio. This issue, however, causes me great stress. I’m considering joining a RCIA program here in Los Angeles, but it’s hard for me to do so in good conscience when I see Cardinal Mahony marching through the streets for “immigrant rights” and when I read your blog item, which is lengthy and intelligent but does not once use the word “illegal” during the context of an issue that is entirely about illegal immigration.

    It leaves a very bad taste in my mouth to think that the Church is ignoring a HUGE aspect of this story. The Arizona law is not anti-immigrant. It’s anti-illegal-immigrant. There is, sir, a huge, huge difference. I live in California. Illegal immigrants cost money. Our state has no money. We’re in a constant debate about whether to cut funding for our schools, for the children of legal citizens, while we’re forced to spend money on people who don’t respect the country enough to come here legally.

    I want the “Statue of Liberty” side, also, Archbishop. I want people to come here legally.

  50. Fred Snyder says:

    Dear Archbishop Dolan,

    The dilemna is one of compassion and good order. The issue is ILLEGAL immigration, not all immigration.

    It is my understanding that a number of European immigrants, who had to have enough money to take a boat to America, were turned away at Ellis Island and sent back to Europe for various reasons.

    It seems reasonable to me that control of a nation’s boarder is NOT restricted to that area in sight of the boarder.

    It is my understanding that the Arizona law was passed BECAUSE the federal government is not enforcing the current laws as they should. And the the Arizona law is pretty much the same as the Federal law, but gives local authorities the power to enforce laws the federal government is not enforcing. Whether A state has THAT right is debatable but the law is only because the federal government is not solving the problem.

    One law that we really need is a Guest Worker law. According the Pew Hispanic Center, ILLEGAL immigrants fill about 5% of American jobs. Most of these jobs are the unskilled kind that better educated Americans won’t do except in hard times. These unskilled jobs need to be done by authorized guest workers, not illegal immigrants.

    According to the May 2, 2010 Sacramento Bee, no US employer was fined in 2006. In 2008, 18 employers were fined $675,000. Now in 2010 so far, 63 employer have been fined $1.9 million. A drop in the buscket, but better. So it does seem that public pressure to enforce the law is having some effect.

    Nonetheless, let us all remember that if we, ourselves, were unemployed and our families hungry, we too would eventually try to go where we think we could get a job, any job. We tend to forget that most illegals are honest and sincere, Less than 20% come here to commit crime.

    It is a dilemna.

    Until it is solved in a fairer manner, we DO need to be compassionate in our language and personal encounters. And PRAYER is most important.