What is the Catholic response to immigration?

Most Reverend Gustavo García-Siller, Archbishop of San Antonio, delivered remarks on immigration at an event co-hosted by America Media and the Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio, Tex., on Tuesday, Dec. 11.

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“We live in a very difficult time in our country. Some elected officials are using migrants and refugees as scapegoats for the nation’s social problems. In doing so they dehumanize our sisters and brothers subjecting them to harsh and even cruel, draconian public policies,” he said.  

Outlining a solution forward he remarked, “the church’s answer to a border wall is sustainable economic development in developing countries. Since this is a long-term solution which will require global cooperation and commitment it is not considered politically realistic by many in Washington, nevertheless it is possible.”

“Every person is created in the image and likeness of God, and the Lord calls on us to stand by our brothers and sisters and to act on their behalf—to welcome the stranger and to do unto others as we would want them to do to us. Let us apply the Gospel message faithfully and boldly to the human problem of immigration.”

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bill carson
9 months ago

“the church’s answer to a border wall is sustainable economic development in developing countries."

Hmmm, if that's true, then why do Jesuits and liberals seek to blame Trump. I never, ever, read anything about "let's put pressure on Latin American countries not be so screwed up!" All I read about is bishop after bishop essentially saying they want totally open borders, while denying that that is EXACTLY what they want.

Margaret Gust
9 months ago

Agree with your post. Jesuits have been in Latin and Central America for cneutires - the latest group of ILLEGALS attempting to force themselves in America come from countries where Jesuits have had mission for CENTURIES!!!!! Why isn't America and the Jesuit community itself examining its own conscience and asking why Honduras, Guatemala, etc., are such open sewers? THE CHURCH has been in Latin and Central American for centuries =- those countries are all filled with poor uneducated people - why hasn't the CHURCH done its job and worked to educate the population and construct stable political institutions in thos countries? This is n't a failure of the USA government, it is a failure of the CATHOLIC CHURCH and the JESUIT SOCIETY. Jesuits were in Latin American BEFORE they were in the USA - why are the Catholic majority nations in this hemisphere still little better than open sewers? They have an uneducated irresponsible population that thinks they have a right to cross the American border ILLEGALLY!!!! That is a CRIME - as well as a SIN! Why are the Jesuits telling them that it is okay? It is time for the Catholic Churc h and the Jesuit Society to examine their own conscience and own up to what part they play in this fiasco. America has a RIGHT to enforce its borders - the Jesuits need to accept responsibility for their centuries of failure in Central and Latin America. Don't try to guilt American Catholics into accepting illegal sinful behavior as "charity." Jesus never encouraged anyone to cross borders illegally. Ignatius of Loyola would be ashamed of you.

Charles Erlinger
9 months ago

Our problems with our fellow Western Hemisphere cohabitants are generically geopolitical. Of course, like any geopolitical problem, these all have a strong moral component.

FRAN ABBOTT
9 months ago

I am deeply, deeply saddened by these comments.

Gabriel Marcella
9 months ago

So am I, Fran. The Catholic Church and the Jesuits have labored immensely to uplift the poor and destitute and cannot be blamed for the violence, criminality, and corruption that result from drug trafficking destined to satisfy the American demand and the pervasive availability of guns coming across the border from the United States. I hope readers of America study Central America and Mexico more so that they're not exploited by the fear mongers who distort the reality on the ground for partisan purpose. New York Times correspondent James Reston once said that Americans will do anything about Latin America except read about it.

Terry Kane
9 months ago

Gabriel - You seem to imply that the problems in Mexico and Central America are the result of America somehow. That's the Blame America First mentality. How do you explain the fact that from our southern border all the way to the Cape Horn the nations are all corrupt. Mexico has no reason to be so corrupt - they are within walking distance of the most advanced nation on earth, yet the government there has learned nothing from us. That cannot be America's fault! That cannot be a result of, "drug trafficking destined to satisfy the American demand and the pervasive availability of guns." The drug problem is relatively new and the same thing goes for guns. No, the problem is not America's, it is Mexico's.
There is a big difference between migrants, illegal aliens, legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Catholic religious leaders seem to conflate all those terms so that they can instruct others to accept all who come to our border. The Vatican has a border wall which President Trump might envy. However, the old "do as I say, not as I do" rule applies here.
It is easy to say, “Every person is created in the image and likeness of God, and the Lord calls on us to stand by our brothers and sisters and to act on their behalf—to welcome the stranger and to do unto others as we would want them to do to us. Let us apply the Gospel message faithfully and boldly to the human problem of immigration.” That quote could apply to anyone and everyone- Hitler, Stalin, Che, Castro, Idi Amin, the 9/11 crews, the Fort Dix Six, et al. Sad to say, many humans are not good people despite their "spark of divinity" which Nancy Pelosi mentioned. The USA may be a Christian nation, but the government is a secular one and it is not compelled to welcome the stranger. Laws determine the actions of our government. Immigrants and refugees are welcomed when they follow our laws. We accept more than any other country on the planet, so we are a welcoming people. However, we are not suicidal, and having poorly-educated people with few or no skills come into our country who take advantage of our many benefits amounts to financial and societal suicide if the number of such "immigrants" is large enough.

Gabriel Marcella
9 months ago

Terry: As an immigrant to the United States who has written and taught about Latin America for over 40 years at a prestigious institution of higher learning I would like to say that the problems that cause desperate people in Central America to escape did not happen overnight. With the exception of Costa Rica, Central American governments have been historically weak and ineffective. Then came the wars of the 1980s, where the Soviets and Cubans sent weapons to try to support Marxist-Leninist insurgents. The United States responded by supporting El Salvador and Honduras with military and economic assistance. The war in El Salvador was especially costly, with over 70,000 killed and many female headed families resulted. One of the outcomes of this was the migration of young men to Los Angeles, where they learned gang tactics, and then were expelled back to El Salvador. Here they organized gangs which now plague much of Central America. The wars left another result--the proliferation of guns. Then came the drug trafficking organizations that used Central America as a transit area for the United States market. Drugs completely transformed the region, bringing high intensity criminality and violence—which intimidate and corrupt police, judicial systems, and even high level officials. Then add the fact that some 60% of the recent guns came from the US to Central America, while 90% of the illegal guns in Mexico originate in the US. When I visited Honduras in the 1980s it was a tranquil place. In the 2000s, drugs radically changed the place. San Pedro Sula was a quiet, peaceful place. Now it's the murder capital of the world. Add Hurricane Mitch, which removed much of the topsoil and vegetation in Honduras, adding to the poverty. Another plague is the coffee blight which has eliminated jobs for 80,000 Hondurans. The US government has been supporting the effort (with money, equipment, and training) to improve governance and security, to strengthen the rule of law, so that Central Americans develop greater capacity to handle their own affairs. The challenge is immense and the task will take time. There is an enormous human tragedy in Central America that we as Catholics cannot overlook.

Terry Kane
8 months 4 weeks ago

Gabriel: Certainly the current problems in the region did not happen overnight. As you note, the USA has tried to help the native populations in those nations. However, the fact that Americans want drugs does not force the people there to join gangs, become murderers or drug traffickers.
You seem to view the people there as passive innocents who are not able to determine their own destiny. Each of them is as capable as any other citizen to become what he wants to be, but he must take the initiative and not rely on others to reach goals. Why do you think it is up to the USA to enable. "Central Americans develop greater capacity to handle their own affairs"? The USA can and will help, but do you believe the people there are so inept that they must have outside help?
The gun statistics you use are questionable. Russian and other foreign guns are numerous there; US guns may be produced here, but they do not arrive by themselves.
As you said, gangs are prolific in Central America. As for the gang tactics originating in LA - is that not an oversimplification? A colleague's sister moved to Mexico in the 70's and not long after the move, human heads were found in the neighborhood. These were the result of gang activity. I do not know of any beheadings occurring in LA then or now; somehow those Mexican gangs improvised their own tactics. Could the Central Americans have been influenced by Mexican gangs rather than LA ones? How do we know that the gangs in LA were not a result of Mexican or Central Americans' illegality?
When will Central America be responsible for Central America? It's all too easy to blame the USA. Children often say, "he made me do it." Central Americans are not children and they should accept responsibility for their conditions instead of claiming others have made their nations what they have become.

Terry Kane
8 months 3 weeks ago

Gabriel - How do you explain the differences between the borders with Canada and Mexico?
Drugs are flowing through the Mexican border, but not so much the Canadian one.
The manufacturers of American guns are located closer to Canada than Mexico.
Both Canada and Mexico are major oil producers and each is an important trading partner with the USA.
Mexico is a tremendous producer of agricultural products, Canada not so much.
Both countries are democratic and border the US, but Mexico is in a terrible state.
Why is it that Mexico and Central America's problems are blamed on the USA?

Dutch Brewster
9 months ago

You do not know what you are talking about. The Catholic Church became the concubine to the wealthy interests in Central and South America and helped to sustain the Spanish System that has left 98% of the people there (at least of the ones it did not kill throughout history) in poverty and hunger. Outside of churches lined with gold sit tattered, filthy beggars extending a stump in supplication for a few cents. Shame on the church that descended from the apostles!

J Cosgrove
9 months ago

The entire world including all the Catholic countries were poor till the late 1600's. Extreme poverty was the norm until about 300 years ago when it changed in parts of England and Holland. Then individual freedom for the masses was accepted by most in England and Holland and prosperity began to grow in this small corner of the world. It spread first to the English colonies and about a century later to other parts of Europe. Absolutely nothing to do with the Catholic Church which fought these changes in most places. That is what is wrong in Latin America. It never incorporated the culture that led to prosperity.

J Cosgrove
9 months ago

As an example, cotton cloth, the preferred cloth for clothing cost 11 shillings per pound in the early 1700's. This was about the weekly wage of a worker. By 50 years later, cotton cost 1 shilling per pound due to changes by English innovators. In the colonies Philadelphia was the most vibrant city in the New World and by 1800 when the rest of the world was living on pennies per day, 80,000 German immigrants were absorbed into Pennsylvania. How did this happen, freedom to do what they wanted to do. The Church has opposed freedom for the masses for most of its existence. It advocated a strict class system.

James Schwarzwalder
9 months ago

I listened to the Archbishop's remarks. I continue to be surprised that the Archbishop and others refer to many refugees and undocumented migrants as "low skilled." Can you read an architects plan? Can you construct a new house such that everything comes out right? Can you manually handle power tools and construction machinery? Can you do electrical work, roofing, plaster boarding, flooring or plumbing? I see many who appear Latino or Hispanic in the construction industry. These folks do much more than pull weeds or mow lawns. So how about we drop the term "low skilled" when describing undocumented immigrants? Regarding agricultural work, Kelly Anne Conway spent six or so summers picking blueberries in the Hammonton NJ area when she was growing up. A little more respect please for manual labor and craftsmanship.

FRAN ABBOTT
9 months ago

Just as many migrants are skilled, many others are not as lucky, having come from environments that did not allow them to develop skills or talents. Some would be happy for the chance to pull weeds or mow lawns if it led to greater opportunity for themselves or their offspring. It is one thing to choose to pick blueberries, quite another to have to do it to survive.

FRAN ABBOTT
9 months ago

Just as many migrants are skilled, many others are not as lucky, having come from environments that did not allow them to develop skills or talents. Some would be happy for the chance to pull weeds or mow lawns if it led to greater opportunity for themselves or their offspring. It is one thing to choose to pick blueberries, quite another to have to do it to survive.

FRAN ABBOTT
9 months ago

Just as many migrants are skilled, many others are not as lucky, having come from environments that did not allow them to develop skills or talents. Some would be happy for the chance to pull weeds or mow lawns if it led to greater opportunity for themselves or their offspring. It is one thing to choose to pick blueberries, quite another to have to do it to survive.

FRAN ABBOTT
9 months ago

Just as many migrants are skilled, many others are not as lucky, having come from environments that did not allow them to develop skills or talents. Some would be happy for the chance to pull weeds or mow lawns if it led to greater opportunity for themselves or their offspring. It is one thing to choose to pick blueberries, quite another to have to do it to survive.

FRAN ABBOTT
9 months ago

Just as many migrants are skilled, many others are not as lucky, having come from environments that did not allow them to develop skills or talents. Some would be happy for the chance to pull weeds or mow lawns if it led to greater opportunity for themselves or their offspring. It is one thing to choose to pick blueberries, quite another to have to do it to survive.

FRAN ABBOTT
9 months ago

Just as many migrants are skilled, many others are not as lucky, having come from environments that did not allow them to develop skills or talents. Some would be happy for the chance to pull weeds or mow lawns if it led to greater opportunity for themselves or their offspring. It is one thing to choose to pick blueberries, quite another to have to do it to survive.

Christopher Scott
9 months ago

According to God the only place happiness can be achieved is in the USA, people born in other parts of the world was an accident

Terry Kane
9 months ago

Christopher - WHAT???? Can you elaborate just a bit so your point can be made more clear?

Malcolm Thornton
9 months ago

Open Borders is the logical conclusion to the vexing issue of Latin American underdevelopment. Of course, the Jesuits lost their way with support for Liberation Theology and all the coercive Marxist measures that it implies. Rather than bitching and complaining to the USA, it would be more to the point to do something to change existing Latin American cultural attitudes towards religion, government, education/training, management practices, and child-rearing practices. Why don't the Jesuits insist that Honduras clean itself up and stop the looting of Health and Human Services Hospitals? Maybe then there wouldn't be so many people on the road to Juarez.

Charles Erlinger
9 months ago

The situation at our southern border, rapidly descending into a calamity, is a culmination of decades of geopolitical stupidity. It is astonishing to read authors and commenters repeatedly refer to the separation of minor children from mothers, or building a coast-to-coast wall, as a policy. If only we had a policy.

A policy is an articulation of a goal or desired end-state, one that could take generations to achieve, but is intended to last indefinitely. A policy that would make sense would be a consistent solidification of influential relations with our closest neighbors on this earth, the nations of North and Central America, designed to last over multiple generations, and characterized by a mutual acknowledgment of at least a minimum set of values and principles. How does the strategy of separating minor children from mothers or building a coast-to-coast wall further that policy goal?

Instead we have a record of firehouse-style responses to tardily recognized emergencies, for example: the disastrous intervention in Chile in the late 1960s, the equally ineffective intervention in Nicauragua in the 1970s and the repeated blundering half-measures in the drug wars for the last 50 years or so.

The policy that would make sense would be carefully and sensitively to nudge and support the polities that we are concerned with, consistently over generations, toward lawful structures that the populations could recognize as desired and livable—structures that would dependably recognize human rights, to include property rights. The post WWII era would have been a perfect time in which to initiate such a policy. It would have coincided perfectly with the nurturing policy that we provided to Europe and Asia, which, remarkably, benefitted not only our allies, but also our recently defeated, sworn enemies.

We would have had to take into account that we were dealing with peoples whose experience with us had been conditioned by our essentially 20th century version of 16th century mercantilism up to that point. We would have had to take into account that we had roughly a century of history of derisively referring to these peoples as “banana republics,” an accurate description of a condition that we ourselves had been in no hurry to improve. We would have had to take into account that these peoples were stumbling out from under the yoke and blinders of colonialism much more recently that we ourselves had done. On the other hand, we would not have had the mutual memory of all out war that we shared with Britain, France, Germany, Italy, China, Japan, the Philippines and many others.

Our post-WWII policies in Western Europe and East Asia toward allies and former enemies generally resulted in 65 or 70 years of comparative peace and prosperity, compared, that is, to the 65 or 70 years of bloodshed in both of those areas prior to the end of WWII.

Those observers are right who remark that the only way our southern border problem can be solved is to solve the situations that force people to leave their homelands in abject desperation for a variety of reasons. We could have looked at the post-WWII turmoil and lawlessness of the Middle East and Africa, as well as South and Southeast Asia, and all of the dehumanized conflicts that took place amid the wreckage of colonialism in those areas, and we could have had the Eureka moment of discovery that we faced similar potential among our immediate neighbors to the south. We could have had a multigenerational head start on achieving a long term policy objective of shaping a future for these peoples that would serve the future peace and prosperity of all of us near neighbors, and we blew it.

It is possible that our post-WWII leaders saw the opportunity but experienced resource constraints that are unknown to us. But it is never too late to initiate a policy toward our close hemispheric neighbors similar to the one our leaders of the post-WWII era did toward Europe and Asia. To be productive, our efforts in this direction should studiously avoid appearing to expect hegemony.

Dutch Brewster
9 months ago

To where has the real Catholic Church disappeared? Where are its true preachers? Is there no end to the abandonment of its mission - to preach the glad tidings and to save that which was lost? When did the church begin to turn over its work to the government?

The church needs no reliance on any immigration law, just or unjust, to carry out its charitable work. It can go to where the problem lies with its committed believers and work change there. It needs no government's sanction nor any government's funds.

The church cannot seem to face its own corruption, its own failure to make a difference in the societies from which so many Central Americans are fleeing. So the church and its members want to pass it on to someone else. It's nauseating to hear such slothfulness and quitting from so-called believers. Stop passing the buck and trying to make political hay!

Charles Erlinger
8 months 4 weeks ago

I see the attribution of a civil governance obligation to organized or institutional religion as a historically demonstrable mistake.

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