US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Catholic university presidents urge Congress for immigration reform

By Elizabeth Lefebvre | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

More than 90 Catholic university presidents are urging Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform as the House of Representatives begins debate on the bill passed recently by the Senate. Along with fellow academics, the presidents have sent a letter to every Catholic member in Congress—163 in total—with the message that immigration reform is an urgent practical and moral priority.

The letter reads:

Catholic teaching values the human dignity and worth of all immigrants, regardless of legal status. We remind you that no human being made in the image of God is illegal….As Catholics engaged in public service, you have a serious responsibility to consider the moral dimensions of policy decisions. Our immigration system is so deeply flawed, and in such urgent need of repair, that inaction is unacceptable.

The Catholic educators have gotten involved because, according to Catholic University of America president John Garvey, “Our primary mission as universities is to teach students to love their neighbors.” The letter notes that Catholic universities and colleges have historically provided opportunities to immigrants, who in turn have enriched our country through hard work, service, and creativity. Says University of Notre Dame president Father John Jenkins: “Catholic institutions are concerned with the dignity of all people.”

Archbishop Jose Gomez of the USCCB's Committee on Migration is encouraged by the message the presidents are sending. “I welcome the support of the Catholic presidents for immigration reform," he says. "They are a welcome voice in this debate, as they see the potential and talent in newly arriving immigrants. Immigrants, especially youth, are important for our nation’s future and competitiveness. Educators understand the importance of investing in immigrant youth so they can become tomorrow’s leaders.”

However, immigration reform remains a deeply divisive topic in our country, and approaches to reform have taken different paths as well. Jenkins notes the divisiveness as well, pointing out that there is wide bipartisan support for a comprehensive reform bill. “This is an opportunity to pass the gridlock that affects so many political discussions,” he says. “It would be a tragic failure to miss this opportunity to make this nation more generous, welcoming, and prosperous.” Recent polling also suggests that nearly 60 percent of Americans would favor passing the Senate’s bill, or something close to its current version.

We are an immigrant church in an immigrant nation. As the nation decides what path it will take regarding immigration reform, the church will continue to advocate that lawmakers "put prudence, human dignity, and the common good at the center of your deliberations."