The stark figures of the family fleeing persecution appear in the ancient Scripture text of Matthew, a Christmas image that does not warm our hearts as do the images of Joseph and Mary and the Child at Bethlehem.
In our day, the issue of immigration has been thrust onto the national scene. The political perspective often turns to legal standards to measure the dimension of the question. Economics looks at the cost/benefit impact that immigrants have on communities. The cultural effects reach into local communities and their customs. These, however, are only a few of the ways such a complex issue impacts us. And for the Catholic community, guidance as to the moral and humane dimensions that can inform our consciences regarding immigration is highly desirable. Each of these approaches is enlightened by a variety of factors such as implications and consequences.
For U.S. citizens the tension between the necessity of orderly assimilation of immigrant populations and our tradition of welcoming immigrants -our concern for both justice and humanity – adds to the confusion.
Recognizing that “Our American ideals call us to participate in the public debate, our Catholic faith urges us to do so with charity,â€ leaders of the Maryland Catholic Conference (consisting of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington), have created a Web site that examines the dimensions of immigration: www.mdcathcon.org/Immigration. In 2007 they issued a formal statement on the subject. Entitled “Where All Find a Home: A Catholic Response to Immigration,” the two-page statement brings moral reflection to the debate. Their statement, offered as guiding norms, can be accessed at that Web site.
For multifaceted presentation on some of the current information and facets of immigration, the Immigration Policy Center is a resource. One of its papers, for example, is entitled “Undocumented Immigrants as Taxpayers.” Drawing on government documents, the paper is enlightening on the contribution of immigrants to the economy. The paper can be accessed at the non-partisan Immigration Policy Center, a division of the American Immigration Council, at immigrationpolicy.org.
The Gospel story offers an incentive to seek a many-sided consideration to the question of immigration. The fate of many people depends on wisdom to inform national policy – and to influence individual attitudes. The question of immigration deserves no less.