Immigration reform: Pathway to citizenship?

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.

17 comments Add your comment


September 12th, 2013
8:27 pm

As a Catholic, I resent the Bishops of the United States supporting those who come into our country illegally, bring diseases, steal identities, demand citizenship, etc., all the while enjoying the benefits extended to them at the expense of the American taxpayer. With reference to stealing identities, isn’t it still a sin against the Seventh Commandment to steal? Where is the social justice for the underemployed and unemployed American citizen. Where is the social justice for those who have done the right thing by applying to enter our country legally and waiting patiently in line for their request to be approved? They have been made fools of by those who walk across our borders with impunity and are rewarded with the possibility of citizenship for their misdeeds. Where is the social justice for those American citizens who live in cities that are being taken over by illegal drug gangs? Where do the POOR illegals get the money to pay the coyotes who usher them into our country? Where were the Bishops when the lay Catholics had to take up the defense of the unborn? If we had the support the Bishops are now giving illegal aliens, we might have been able to save the 53 million babies that have been the victims of abortion. We have many left-wing, Bishops heading our churches and undermining our country. God have mercy on them.

Pastor George

September 12th, 2013
7:44 pm

“Is there really a parallel between the ’strangers’ of ancient times and those who have sneaked across our borders?” Yes. The word “hospitality” in the New Testament comes from the Greek word that means “love of the stranger”. This isn’t some vague biblical “morality” but the very essence of Old and New Testament teaching as to how we are to treat the stranger who lives among us.

Not only are your conclusions wrong, but I would also point out that “Appeals to Antiquity” are a fallacy of logic. Not very helpful for my argument, as I end up committing the same fallacy, but as you are making an Appeal to Antiquity, I thought the least I could do was help you understand what was really going on back then.

Quoting, “Christians are taught to pray for wisdom and discernment to determine what works best in life.” Discernment and wisdom – from a Christian perspective – is not determining what “works best in life” but rather how is God calling us to respond – even if it means we will face great suffering, loss, and trials.

If you feel like the world is crashing all around you because of undocumented immigration, fair enough, but the Bible is probably not the best book to turn to if you are trying to propagate this belief. Just trying to be helpful.


September 12th, 2013
4:08 pm

America legally admits over a MILLION immigrants every year. Apparently, we already have a pathway to citizenship.


September 12th, 2013
4:05 pm

We reform the immigration system? What immigration system? With twelve million illegal immigrants living in this country, I do not think we have a system at all.

I suggest we send a bill for each and every illegal in this country to the country from which they came. The amount would be a total from the financial systems of our government. which would add all the healthcare, school charges, prison care and government support costs run up by them.

Let’s start with Mexico who receives great financial donations from these illegals. If Mexico doesn’t have the funds, send gasoline from government pumps. MEXICAN drug cartels also draw off the funds of American druggies. They could chip in at least twelve million dollars without even missing it.

Central American countries can send fresh fruit by the boatload.

Americans should not be funding twelve million people breaking the laws of our country. We have enough of our own without adding others to the cost list. Make the countries who let anyone invade our country pay for them . I think that would make a difference since we can’t seem to guard our own borders. Let illegals cause their own country to lose money. That would be only fair.

Not the American way? Well, our government has already forgotten the American way. If they did, we would not be in debt for seventeen trillion dollars and planning to add more. Foot loose and fancy free!!!.

GCPS Teacher

September 12th, 2013
3:04 pm

Our public education system is a disaster, and illegal immigration and over immigration is a big factor. We need to stop taking in every country’s poor and under educated. We will never be able to compete with China on education, because our public schools are forced to educate a host of different languages and cultures. China and most other highly industrialized counties are moving far above the US because they don’t have the Illegal immigration burden we have. It is a MYTH that these are the best and hardest working students. They show a sense of entitlement just like there parents even at the youngest elementary years. I am a teacher, I know what I am talking about

The US is going continue to suffer if we don’t STOP ILLEGAL immigration, put limits and strict guidelines on legal immigration, and find away to make the those Illegals that are here pay for the years they have taken from the US.

Our current Immigration system is destroying our country. It will be a lifelong burder for the current children of US citizens, and those children will be burdened as Adults to finnancially carry the burden.

Is this truely what you want for your children? Your grandchildren?

Fed UP with the Feds

September 12th, 2013
2:49 pm

The U.S. has a path to citizenship, unfortunately the Federal government has refused to enforce it. Just look what has happened to the security of our country with our lax immigration policies – 9/11/2001, Fort Hood, Boston Marathon Terrorists – would you like me to go on? 11 million (under estimate) people that have been here for YEARS have been allowed to lie, cheat and steal from American citizens. Those children have also watched and learned from their parents how to pilfer. Amnesty for Illegals is a slap in the face to those LEGAL immigrants who fought and DID the right thing. Amnesty for Illegals just bolsters the entitlement class already rampant among American citizens. Illegals have had YEARS to do the right things to become legal citizens, why would we just hand them what they want without them having to truely earn it?

America is the land of the free ONLY for US citizens. Our borders should be sealed at all levels an


September 12th, 2013
2:04 pm

At the end of the day in a free society open movement of labor should be allowed. This means workers and businesses should be allowed to move across borders without penalty. However, this does not mean that the process is totally uncontrolled.

Those who ignore the legal process create a variety of problems for citizens and actual legal aliens, but forcing these people to remain in an illegal status does nothing to solve these problems. People who are here illegally should be granted guest worker status and allowed to stay without any major financial penalty. However, guest worker status should not automatically lead to citizenship.

Citizenship may be granted for immigrant children, those who serve in the military or possibly other very narrow categories. However, for the most part those who broke the law to enter should remain in the guest worker status.