On Wednesday, February 2, Cardinal Roger Mahoney visited UNC-Chapel Hill to highlight the Catholic Church’s position on immigration issues. Cardinal Mahoney, who represents the archdiocese of Los Angeles, delivered a message entitled “For Goodness Sake: Why America Needs Immigration Reform.” In an auditorium filled with about 200 students, professors, fellow Catholics and others, Cardinal Mahoney urged the audience to consider the contradictory messages contained in our broken immigration system. It is as though the U.S. has two giant billboards at our southern border with Mexico. One sign says “No Trespassing,” while the other says “Help Wanted.”
In other words, Cardinal Mahoney said: “We gladly accept the toil and taxes of the immigrant work force to fill our economic needs, but look the other way when they are exploited in the workplace, die in the desert, or are arrested and deported for the most minor of civil violations.”
At its heart, immigration is a moral issue. It’s about how society treats those who are vulnerable, at the margins. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is unwavering in its stance that “All persons have the right to find in their own countries the economic, political, and social opportunities to live in dignity and achieve a full life through the use of their God-given gifts. In this context, work that provides a just, living wage is a basic human need… Regardless of their legal status, migrants, like all persons, possess inherent human dignity which should be respected. Government policies that respect the basic human rights of the undocumented are necessary” (Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope).
In North Carolina today, many immigrant communities are facing very difficult circumstances. With the recent introduction of three different House Bills (find a summary here), it appears that some state lawmakers want to drive immigrants further into the shadows of society. Cardinal Mahoney reminded us that this approach – which divides families and undermines the American dream – is not only impractical but also deeply immoral.
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-Chris Liu-Beers, Program Associate