US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Going to the root of the immigration issue

By Elizabeth Lefebvre | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Immigration is one of today’s biggest hot-button issues.  Plans for immigration reform subject to plenty of scrutiny from all sides of the political spectrum. Everyone agrees that there is a problem we need to solve: What is the United States to do with the large number of immigrants coming into the country? Instead of arguing over solutions that start once people arrive in the United States, what if immigration reform instead made a concentrated effort to focus on the factors that drive people here in the first place?

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) announced today that it will advocate for immigration reform to reduce the needs for people to leave their countries of origin, as it sees immigration. Especially in Latin America, where 80% of immigrants arrive from, CRS is urging for Congress to specifically focus on issues such as rural poverty, displacement after natural disasters, and high youth unemployment.

“We believe that the current debate on immigration reform must include a recognition that migration does not occur in a vacuum or only as a domestic issue,” said Bill O’Keefe, Vice President of Government Relations and Advocacy for CRS. “We need to more effectively respond to the factors that are at the root of migration, including poverty, lack of public safety and persecution. It’s not about stopping migration, but about creating opportunities so that people have options, including ‘the right not to migrate.’”

CRS acknowledges that migration is a complex issue, and, regardless of steps taken in countries of origins, people will obviously still leave to come to the United States. While countries of origin certainly are responsible for addressing causes of migration, we in the United States should still be responsible for examining the ways that our policy decisions might be affecting countries who send us high numbers of migrants.

“Ultimately, migration is not just an economic, social, or legal issue,” says CRS. “It is a moral issue with a human face making the current status quo unacceptable.”

As CRS president Carolyn Woo told us in our May 2013 interview: “I hope that people, when they look at this body of work of CRS, at least they can say there’s a real commitment on the part of the church to live the gospel values. That service and charity are motivated by God’s love and God’s call—it’s real, even if it may not be perfect.”

Our need to reform our immigration policy is real. Even if current solutions may not be perfect, we still must do what we can to recognize that people, as they have for hundreds of years, will continue to seek out a life in the United States, and these people are worthy of God’s love.

Image: Flickr photo cc by Gwenael Piaser