Social Justice: Immigration reform is priority for Texas bishops

By Barbara Budde
Columnist

The Texas Legislative Session is well underway. In the many articles that have appeared about Faithful Citizenship, all keep emphasizing that we are political but not partisan, that our values flow from the Gospel, not a particular ideology. The advocacy agenda of the bishops of Texas makes that very clear. 
Our bishops are completely rooted in the Gospel and the values of Jesus. It is clear that those values transcend partisanship. Immigration is one example, and the bishops’ priorities on immigration include: 

  • Support care for unaccompanied minors and reuniting families separated by migration.
  • Oppose efforts to reduce access to education and health care for immigrants.
  • Oppose efforts to compel local and state agencies to enforce federal immigration laws.
  • Oppose efforts that hinder immigrants’ ability to get Texas drivers’ licenses and IDs.
  • Support comprehensive immigration reform including a pathway to citizenship.

The roots of these issues and the values behind them come directly from Scripture. In Exodus we read, “You shall not oppress or afflict a resident alien, for you were once aliens residing in the land of Egypt” (22:20). This is so important that it is repeated in Exodus 23: 9; in Leviticus 19:33-34; in Deuteronomy 10:18-22 and 24:17-18. Time and again strangers, foreigners and aliens, along with widows and orphans are named as those who have God’s special protection and care. The bishops are called by God through the Scripture to teach these values and to live them. We are called to care for those in need and oppose anything that lessens their dignity and worth as God’s children.
Some are calling for the repeal of the Texas DREAM act. The bishops oppose this because it will reduce access to education for young people who have been living in the U.S. for years and hope to continue to live in this country their entire lives. Allowing those brought to this country as children to get an education is following the biblical mandate to “not oppress an alien.” It also makes for good public policy because those who are here and who wish to stay can make valuable contributions to our society when they have the right training and education. Denying them an education will not cause them to migrate back to a country that is not their own, but will only force them into an underground economy that undermines society.
My own ancestors came to this county as immigrants. Like most new immigrants they settled in communities with others who spoke their language and knew their customs. Outside of that tight knit community, they were judged, harassed and mistreated because of their language, customs, and religion and because they were foreigners, aliens. The politicians of that era called them the destroyers of American culture and values –– because they were Catholic.
Pope Francis has continued to speak out both to Europe and the U.S. on the need to welcome immigrants. Last July when tens of thousands of children, some traveling with their mothers, crossed into the U.S., Pope France said “… I repeat what I have affirmed in this year’s Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees: ‘A change of attitude toward migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization –– all typical of a throwaway culture –– toward attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world.’”
Continue to visit the Texas Catholic Conference website at www.txcatholic.org for ways to assist the Texas bishops in their advocacy efforts on immigration and other issues.

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