June 30, 2007 – Pope John Paul II and Immigration Law and Policy
The immigration debate in the United States and in other developed countries has proved vitriolic and divisive, one view espousing limited immigration based on a stringent selection process reflecting the interests of the inhabitants and the other advocating a more open border in which the needs and desires of intending immigrants are considered. The debate is fueled by the unlawful presence of millions of foreigners in the United States, as well as by concerns for security from overseas terrorists. Some also point to the risks of entry by terrorists due to porous borders. Conversely, others favor making immigration easier, and giving those here without status the opportunity to obtain work authorization and eventual citizenship. Both sides tend to view immigrants as objects–either as workers or as welfare recipients or criminals. While one side sees a benefit to their presence, the other views them as a burden. Neither side considers immigrants as subjects, with both rights and responsibilities. The Catholic Church has proposed an alternative solution to migration issues, which addresses the immigrant as a subject, through its social teaching, as expressed in encyclical letters, addresses, and other public statements of church leaders. The late Pope John Paul II was a particularly active advocate for this position, calling for respect for the humanity, dignity, and needs of the immigrant, while recognizing the impact on both the community the migrant leaves and the one he enters.