Jesuit Conference Writes to White House, Congress

The Jesuit Conference, which represents the Jesuits in the United States, has written the following letter to President Barack Obama and to the members of Congress:

June 4, 2010


We, the Provincials of the Society of Jesus in the United States, write to ask that you take immediate action to effect comprehensive immigration reform. Our Roman Catholic religious order sponsors a broad array of works in education, pastoral ministry and social service. Through our ministries, we witness the tragic consequences of our current immigration system. This is not the America that any of us desire.We can and must do better. Now is the time to enact comprehensive immigration reform because enforcement-only solutions are inadequate. We stand with the Catholic bishops of the United States, through the Justice for Immigrants Campaign, in calling for reform that will embody these essential principles:

A path to legalization that ensures that undocumented immigrants have access to full rights.
In 1996, the United States Catholic bishops succinctly summarized the failure of our current system: “It is against the common good to have two classes in society: one legal with rights and one illegal without rights.” Immigrants have labored long and hard for our society, contributing to our economic growth. It is time to allow undocumented workers to leave the shadows and enjoy the daylight they have earned by normalizing their immigration status.

A legal employment structure for future workers that protects both migrants and United States workers.
Immigrants, both skilled and unskilled, contribute to the economy by filling labor-gaps that are all too common in certain industries. Creating legal pathways for future workers will ensure that our nation is promoting “authentic” development – development that secures fundamental rights, protects human dignity and respects the human person. Only by creating legal pathways that respond to labor-market realities in the United States can we ensure that there is a safe and economically sustainable migration flow to satisfy the needs of the U.S. economy.

Expedited family reunification and emphasis on family unity for all immigrants.
Keeping families intact is essential to human fulfillment and social stability. Yet, visa backlogs have caused U.S. permanent citizens and legal residents to endure years of separation from close family members. This has often resulted in efforts to bring family members into this country illegally and often at great risk. The current backlog must be addressed and sufficient visas should be made available across the socio-economic spectrum to ensure an orderly reunification of family members in a timely fashion.

The need for due process and humane enforcement of our immigration laws.
We recognize the right of countries to establish reasonable regulations and laws governing immigration, but we must also affirm that those migrating in seek of work to sustain themselves and their families have a right to be treated justly and humanely. Uniform national standards for all detention facilities must be enacted that include rigorous standards for medical treatment and increased access to pastoral care, legal counsel and legal orientation programs. Those detained should be afforded timely and fair adjudication of their cases. Enforcement efforts must respect the dignity of all persons and every effort should be made to keep families and communities together. This includes making provisions to place those who are detained in facilities within a reasonable proximity to their family members and attorneys.

Development assistance and fair competition with developing countries.
Too many persons today are forced to migrate from their home countries due to the dearth of real economic opportunities sufficient to support individuals and families.We must adopt international development policies, and trade policies, that will foster sustainable economic development in the countries from which migrant flows are the greatest.

These principles provide the framework for a comprehensive reform of our immigration laws that is fair, just and humane.We have a moral obligation to provide the many men and women who have worked so hard for this country the opportunity to regularize their immigration status and move toward becoming citizens of the United States of America.

The tide of resistance to real reform will be strong. But it is the right thing to do and now is the time to act. We need your leadership and we commit to working with you to bring about comprehensive immigration reform. The time has come to reform our immigration laws so that this nation will once again shine as a beacon of hope, tolerance and welcome to the world.


[The Jesuit Provincials of the United States]


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Rick Malloy
8 years 7 months ago
Mr. Mattingly, Thank you for your thoughtful comment.  The American belief that charity is best exercised on the level of the individual has been seriously questioned by the basic ideas of Catholic Social Teaching.  The charity of the rich is often only made possible because of the vast economic inequities from which they disproportionately and unjustly benefit.  Neither the blessing not the celebration of rugged individualism is found in the gospels.
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.
Peace on Earth, #46

[The Catholic tradition calls for] a society of free work of enterprise and of participation. Such a society is not directed against the market, but demands that the market be appropriately controlled by the forces of society and by the State, so as to guarantee that the basic needs of the whole of society are satisfied. 
The Hundredth Year, #35

Furthermore, the state has the duty to prevent people from abusing their private property to the detriment of the common good. By its nature private property has a social dimension which is based on the law of the common destination of earthly goods. Whenever the social aspect is forgotten, ownership can often become the object of greed and a source of serious disorder, and its opponents easily find a pretext for calling the right itself into question.
The Church in the Modern World, #71

The teachings of the Church insist that government has a moral function: protecting human rights and securing basic justice for all members of the commonwealth. Society as a whole and in all its diversity is responsible for building up the common good. But it is the government's role to guarantee the minimum conditions that make this rich social activity possible, namely, human rights and justice. This obligation also falls on individual citizens as they choose their representatives and participate in shaping public opinion.
Economic Justice for All, #122

Society as a whole, acting through public and private institutions, has the moral responsibility to enhance human dignity and protect human rights. In addition to the clear responsibility of private institutions, government has an essential responsibility in this area. This does not mean that government has the primary or exclusive role, but it does have a positive moral responsibility in safeguarding human rights and ensuring that the minimum conditions of human dignity are met for all. In a democracy, government is a means by which we can act together to protect what is important to us and to promote our common values.
Economic Justice for All, #18

Rick Malloy
8 years 7 months ago
Typo corrected: "Neither the blessing nor the celebration of rugged individualism is found in the gospels."
8 years 7 months ago
As a legal entity, a country owes its own citizens its primary "rights", cheif among them is national security & the integrity of its borders.  Yes, under international & US law, undocument workers have some "rights", but those rights should, at least until "comprehensive" reform is enacted, not be trumped by the rights and duties of the US government to its own citizens.  to listen to some of the rhetoric on this issue, you would swear that no legal framework is at work here.  There is such a legal framework, both international & US, and THAT should be the starting point for this debate.  But instead, some seem to want to argue backwards from the problem to create a solution that fails to address the basic legal framework at play, which will only yield a greater problem.
James Heyman
8 years 7 months ago
Something I have not heard anyone debating or discussing is why are these people legally or ill-legally emigrating to the U.S.?

How many hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid and trade are given to Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, etc, etc.

Rather than our ''president'' criticizing the state of Arizona for trying to stem the tide of ill-legal immigrants and drug trafickers coming into their state and endangering their citizens, both anglo and hipanic americans, why didn't O'Bama take the president of Mexico to task on their lack of social justice in Mexico?
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 7 months ago
Somehow I can always rely on the Jesuits to get it right!
8 years 7 months ago
Unfortunately, the Provincials', and if I understand it correctly, the Bishops' thinking on immigration is a tortured mismash of inconsistent policies.  Take 2 sentences from the Provincials' letter:
1. “It is against the common good to have two classes in society: one legal with rights and one illegal without rights.” 
2."We recognize the right of countries to establish reasonable regulations and laws governing immigration, but we must also affirm that those migrating in seek of work to sustain themselves and their families have a right to be treated justly and humanely."
These are inconsistent.  The first sentence makes it sound as though the Bishops are arguing against ANY legal discrimination on the basis of citizenship, so you cannot then turn around and "recognize the right of countries" to regulate immigration.  If you really believe, as I think some do, that citizenship should carry NO status whatsoever, then they should say that rather than try to have it both ways.  It is the very ESSENCE of a free society to enforce its laws and the integrity of its borders.  Contrary to being against human dignity to so do, human dignity REQUIRES the enforcement of those laws.  If we are not a nation of laws we are a nation on the road to decline.  EVERY major industrial nation is faced with this issue, and they have always enforced the status of citizenship.
Very few are against immigration; what most conservatives argue for is a measured enforcement of the immigration laws on the books and a regulataion of immigration that fosters legalized immigration.  Yes, I agree, the process of gaining citizenship should be streamlined, but that must be coupled with a meaningful enforcement of federal laws already on the books.   
This is a vital issue because these persons will add to already strained government budgets.  Unfortunately, the letter in my view does little to clarify the situation.  I am glad thaton this issue, the bishops are in the minority on this issue.
Vince Killoran
8 years 7 months ago
I don't see the inconsistency-the first part of the sentence acknowledges the right of countries to set borders, policies, etc. but there exist human rights as well that must be honored.  The two might come into conflict but immigration laws can be crafted in a humane way.  "Rights" are always balanced against other "rights" and "responsibilities." 
A powerful letter.  One of its strengths lie in organizing it with bold subtitles-a minor thing I know but it draws our attention to the social, legal, and economic aspects of the issue.
Tom Maher
8 years 7 months ago
Well said Jeff Landry. Freedom and dignity do not take place in an enviornment of lawlessness, mayhem and choas as is chronically happening on our southern border.

Without secure borders we are really talking about "open borders" and "open immigration" where the rule of law does not apply. "Open borders" and "open immigartion" is not acceptable to most Americans. No reform will be possible unless the borders are secured first. Politicans assured us in the past that the borders would be secure but the borders were not secure. Any reform without secure borders does not make sense, is meaningless and is politically unacceptable.

The lack of progress in securing our border will prevent any comprerhensive immigration reform from happening as has happened in the past several years. It is very unwise for anyone to ignore the political demand for secure borders.
Vince Killoran
8 years 7 months ago
It's not clear from these comments what part of the JC's letter you all oppose. Is it its"comprehensive" nature? Should it be just legislation on "securing the border"?  If so, that seems unwise-both from a practical policy angle and a human rights one.
8 years 7 months ago
Mr. Killoran,
As I said in my first post, it is the inconsistent statements about the right of nations to regulate immigration with their support for policies thta would essentially erode any border whatsoever that I find troubling.  I am for promoting and encouraging an efficient and fair immigration policy & even some treatment to migrant workers already here.  What I fear, however, is that the Provincials really want NO regulation of immigration, and indeed the further erosion of the Southern border.  What I suspect the Democrats' polls are showing is that ANY so-called comprehensive reform effort that simply erodes the enforcement of federal law is a non-starter.  There is a lot of talk about "compassion".  A state owes its citizens justice above all, and justice requires the enforcement of law; without that enforcement, everyone's rights are at jeopardy.  The just enforcement of US law IS a human rights platform!
Vince Killoran
8 years 7 months ago
 No need to call me "Mr. Killoran" but I'd appreciate it if you stop the endless references to liberals and Democrats followed by pejorative words(I'm a registered Green and don't even consider myself a liberal).  And, before you write back with the "I will if the other side promises the same" proviso,  I've looked at about a dozen or so old posts and it's done mostly by you and one or two bloggers on a near-constant basis.
As for your response, i.e., your "fear" that the Provincials embrace "open borders," I just don't see that in their statement.  Perhaps you could point me to the words they use that explicitly advocate this.  My initial point was that the statement captures a Catholic perspective on immigration reform. Isn't that true?
8 years 7 months ago
Why not open all of the borders to all impoverished peoples in the interest of social justice?

The country cannot afford to provide the social benefits that such families will undoubtedly demand. As a genuine matter of survival, a country must control its borders on the basis of economics, protection from harm, and fairness to its citizens who have contributed to the coffers from which these impoverished peoples will draw.

This letter speaks 5% about the benefits to the US and 95% about the benefits to immigrants. It seems to me that the Left seeks the creation of a one-world government with no borders and a pipe dream of peace and worldwide cooperation. I used to laugh when right-wingers speak about how the Left hates this country and wants to see it destroyed; but I'm starting to understand what they mean.
James Lindsay
8 years 7 months ago
It is a myth that undocumented immigration - or allowing immigrants to come out of the shadows - would be costly. Indeed, the opposite is true. Immigrant children, and citizen children of immigrants, are already entitled to education and social benefits and all are entitled to emergecy health care. Dropping prohibitions on immigrants (legal and illegal) will actually save money as they will put migrants into non-emergency care settings. Indeed, more people, especially those who have more children, are essential if we ever want to change the demographics on Social Security (which apply equally to the economics of retirement investment in stocks).

On the question of lawlessness - if the law is ill advised in the first place - overturning it strengthens the rule of law. Much in current immigration law is ill-advised and downright wrong. Indeed, there is a demand for immigrant labor precisely because agribusiness prefers people who live in the shadows, work for less money and won't complain about either their own working conditions or the dangerous nature of the food they produce. The antedote for this incentive to lawlessness is a much eased immigration system and an end to right-to-work laws. Such measures would actually decrease migration, provide for a better food supply and for the just treatment of workers. As such, they would fulfill the promise of Benedict XVI's encyclical Caritas in Veritate.
Rick Malloy
8 years 7 months ago
Those above who want to know what countries are getting foreign aid from the USA should check out the facts.  First, relatively, the USA has never given much in Foreign Aid.  The U.S. does not even come close to the 0.7% of GDP that many European countries donate.   And Israel, Egypt and other military allies get the vast majority of "aid."
U.S. Budget FY 2009 Foreign Aid:  Israel $3.1 billion; Afghanistan $2.7 billion; Pakistan $2.1 Billion; Egypt $1.9 billion; Jordan $1.0 billion; West bank and Gaza $0.91 billion; Kenya $0.70 billion; Mexico $0.67 billion; Iraq $0.58 billon; Ethiopia $0.57 billion.  As you can see Mexico is low on this list and doesn't make the top ten for 2010. (SOURCE: State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2009 Appropriations. Susan B. Epstein Specialist in Foreign Policy.   Kennon H. Nakamura Analyst in Foreign Affairs. April 3, 2009).
Full, enlightened and informed analysis of the immigration situation can be found at
Rick Malloy
8 years 7 months ago
FY2011 Request for Foreign AidAfghanistan $3.9 billionPakistan $3.0 billionIsrael $3.0 billion Egypt $1.6 billionIraq $729 million Kenya $714 millionJordan $682 millionNigeria $647 millionSouth Africa $586 millionEthiopia $583 million
(SOURCE  Congressional Research Service:  State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2011 Budget and Appropriations. Marian Leonardo Lawson, Analyst in Foreign Assistance . Susan B. Epstein, Specialist in Foreign Policy.  Kennon H. Nakamura, Analyst in Foreign Affairs. May 5, 2010. P. 13)
Rick Malloy
8 years 7 months ago
FY2011 Request for Foreign Aid
Afghanistan $3.9 billion
Pakistan $3.0 billion
Israel $3.0 billion
Egypt $1.6 billion
Iraq $729 million
Kenya $714 million
Jordan $682 million
Nigeria $647 million
South Africa $586 million
Ethiopia $583 million
(SOURCE  Congressional Research Service:  State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2011 Budget and Appropriations. Marian Leonardo Lawson, Analyst in Foreign Assistance . Susan B. Epstein, Specialist in Foreign Policy.  Kennon H. Nakamura, Analyst in Foreign Affairs. May 5, 2010. P. 13)
Rick Malloy
8 years 7 months ago
Foreign Aid 1995-2004.  See where "our" money goes.  It certainly is not to Mexico.


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