Moderated by Rick Badie
Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory joined Roman Catholics around the nation in calling for an overhaul of U.S. immigration laws that would include a path to citizenship. Today, Gregory — who oversees an archdiocese that represents 69 North and Middle Georgia counties — explains that perspective. Meanwhile, a conservative activist who takes issue with that position.
Time for path to citizenship
By Wilton D. Gregory
Now is the time for comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship. Our country is facing many challenges at home and abroad. There are people in our midst, particularly vulnerable children, who we see suffering from lack of legal protections because of their immigration status.
Delaying and ignoring the real problems for political purposes has not brought solutions but only exacerbated the suffering of immigrant peoples and hurt our country at large. The Catholic bishops of the U.S. have long advocated for immigrants and their families. We seek comprehensive reform that allows people to earn citizenship in a way that recognizes their inherent dignity.
Why are the Catholic bishops involved in this issue?
Immigration — and immigration reform — directly impact human beings and thus has moral implications. Our nation’s immigration system is adversely affecting the rights and dignity of human beings living in our country, a reality the Catholic community witnesses each day in our parishes, social service programs and hospitals. Families are being separated. Workers are being exploited. People are dying in the desert. The creation of a pathway to legal status and, eventually, citizenship is a matter of justice and human dignity, as it would help protect immigrants from this suffering. Christians are taught by the words of Jesus to serve others because we encounter Christ in each other.
We have all benefited from the labor of those who pick our crops, serve in our restaurants, build our homes and perform a multitude of services, often at low wages and without the protection of the law. Keeping some of our brothers and sisters in legal shadows and denying them a fair share of the fruits of their labor is offensive to their dignity as human beings and children of God. It sanctions a permanent underclass in our society, which our Founding Fathers fought against and the Civil War sought to end. As a moral matter, as a nation, we cannot accept the toil and taxes of these immigrants without offering them the protection of the law. We cannot have it both ways.
Many Catholics and others of good will rightly ask about the rule of law. Should we provide legal status to persons who have broken the law? A reasonable question. We must consider, however, that any path to citizenship is far from easy. Those who undertake it will be required to pay their debt and wait in line. We also must consider that our current system does not provide the legal means for low-skilled workers to enter the country safely and legally, even though we depend on their labor.
The Catholic bishops support adherence to civil law and recognize the right of sovereign nations to protect the integrity of their borders. Immigration reform would restore the rule of law, not undermine it, and would preserve this right. However, this right should be exercised in conjunction with, not to the exclusion of, the protection of human rights and needs. Immigration reform, which includes a path to citizenship, can no longer be delayed.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory oversees the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta.
Amnesty is not reform
By Phil Kent
Everyone should favor reforming our nation’s broken immigration policies. It all depends on how you define “reform.”
Some religious leaders, including Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory, define it as granting amnesty — immediate legal status and a path to citizenship — to 12 million-plus illegal immigrants.
Roman Catholics are being told by their bishops that it is somehow a moral imperative to bestow amnesty and citizenship, despite the inherent immorality of denying scarce jobs to poor or unemployed Americans and opening them up to invasive foreigners. Some religious open-border proponents even cite God’s command to the ancient Israelites to treat “strangers” as natives and to love them as themselves.
Remember, though: Approximately 22 million Americans are unemployed. The Senate bill the archbishop favors allows 30 million illegals to attain legal status in the next decade, which will result in increased unemployment and a lowering of wages. The teenage unemployment rate is already at an all-time high, thanks to illegals stealing teens’ jobs.
Catholic elites are out of touch when they overlook that amnesty harms vulnerable Americans. Catholic parishioners, on the other hand, prefer traditional national sovereignty; according to a 2009 Zogby poll, 64 percent preferred enforcement over amnesty.
The archbishop admits that U.S. bishops “have advocated for comprehensive immigration reform” — their code word for amnesty — “for the past two decades.” That means They supported the one-time 1986 congressional amnesty but now want more! Could it be because the bishops know that drawing more Latin American illegals here will fill pews and collection plates? Rewarding lawbreakers with a path to citizenship is an immoral slap at immigrants who came here legally, became permanent residents, learned English, assimilated into our mainstream culture and became citizens.
Those advocating amnesty as ordained by their Gospel of St. Trendy conveniently ignore that, throughout the Old Testament, it was God’s plan for ancient Israel to maintain its national integrity. When the Israelites went against this design by diluting her character with that of surrounding nations, God’s wrath came.
Is there really a parallel between the “strangers” of ancient times and those who have sneaked across our borders, used fake identification, cheated on taxes, used public services intended for citizens, taken jobs and committed violent crimes? To suggest we welcome such people and give them citizenship on the basis of vague biblical “morality” or “justice” is to ignore the balance of obligations in Old Testament law.
Real “reform” means enhanced border and internal enforcement, fixing the exit-entry visa system so we know who enters and leaves (to assist in thwarting terrorists like the Boston bombers), and streamlining guest worker programs so that, if no American is displaced, a temporary foreign employee can fill a the job.
Christians are taught to pray for wisdom and discernment, which consists of determining what works best in life. Another mass amnesty, coupled with no money for systemic reform or enforcement — which is the heart of the flawed Senate bill — is not wise reform. We should not expect foreigners to respect our laws if we don’t respect them ourselves.
Phil Kent, a senior warden of St. Hilda’s Anglican Catholic Church in Atlanta, is a member of the Georgia Immigration Enforcement Review Board.