Hardly a day goes by without some new attack upon our immigrant brothers and sisters living and working among us.
Whether it be States such as Arizona or Alabama enacting harsh and focused laws to discourage and to terrify immigrant families by denying their basic human dignity and vast contributions to our society, or, media commentators continuing to blame immigrants for the nation's economic woes, our immigrants are suffering deeply.
Most of our immigrant families are "blended" families, meaning that some members have legal documents and some others do not. Every family is going to take every avenue to stay together—not to be separated by deportation. But that effort is lived out in fear and terror that in an instant a family member will be plucked off the streets and placed in detention.
Immigrant brothers and sisters: Take heart, have courage! Since the 1700s the Catholic Church in this country has welcomed each and every wave of immigrants who have come to our shores. We have stood with you, we have provided spiritual and pastoral care, and we established schools to educate your children. We have seen too many times the prejudice that greeted you, and the denial of dignity and rights which followed.
But do not be afraid. Every successive group of immigrants before you has felt the sting of insult and unwelcome by some in our country. However, your dedication and commitment to our country continue to benefit the nation. More than that, your resolve and sacrifices have helped create the great country in which we all live.
The Bishops of the USA and of Mexico issued a joint Pastoral Letter in early 2003 entitled "Strangers No Longer--Together on the Journey of Hope" to recall the Church's history of spiritual and pastoral outreach to immigrants over the centuries. This latest Letter reaffirms all of the past initiatives taken by the Church, and pledges our continuing efforts over the coming years.
Although it is not my role to speak on behalf of the U.S. Bishops, nonetheless, I do wish to reaffirm my personal commitment to stand and walk with you--all of our immigrants across the country in the spirit of past declarations by the Bishops' Conference. In particular:
+ Families awaiting reunification processes: Do not give up, and do not be afraid; realize that your Church continues to advocate for a family to be united with all its members, as well as to assist you in the process;
+ Parents afraid of workplace raids by ICE: Please maintain your prayerful patience when you leave for work, and thank God when you return home; focus on your family members and be sustained by all the good you are doing for them;
+ Children at home anxiously waiting for your parents to return: Say a prayer each morning for their safe journey to and from work, and thank God when they return to you in the evening; thank them for their hard work for you and for your brothers and sisters;
+Those of you in our midst who do not have jobs: Do not give up; there are many groups in the Church and in our communities dedicated to help you find a job; say a prayer to St. Joseph the Worker, the earthly father of Jesus, to assist you in finding a job;
+Immigrants in process to obtain a green card or to obtain legal residency: Continue to be hopeful, seek the assistance of our many immigrants’ rights groups who can assist you with the legal processes;
+Students in high school and college without proper papers: You are known as our “Dreamer students”, and we have great hopes for your future. Continue with your studies, and explain your own personal journey to those who are working to create a path for you towards legal residency; become involved in groups helping to pass the Dream Act and other legislation to protect you and to give you a future;
+For all immigrants living and working in our midst: Be proud to be living in the United States, and get to know your new country well. Remember that we are a nation of millions of immigrants who came before you. Be inspired by their hard work and sacrifices to help make our nation strong, safe, and hope-filled for your children. Learn English, as well as the positive values of our society. Work hard towards full citizenship, and participate in our many democratic processes—especially voting in all elections.
The Catholic Church is standing and walking with you on your journeys forward. No matter how strident and hateful the words against you, you are not alone. Please count on us; we respect your dignity as brothers and sisters, and we will fight for your basic human rights; we will never abandon you.