Labor Day 2006 finds our nation struggling with the difficult issue of immigration. We have the ongoing reality of people coming to our country seeking a better life for their families. U.S. employers, including many in our own diocese, need this labor source. Our whole economy, in some respects, depends upon these immigrants. Many come legally; many do not. I endorse the thoughts of Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, writing for the U.S. Bishops' Domestic Policy Committee, who notes:
"Immigration is not a new reality. We are a nation and a Church built by immigrants. However, immigration raises continuing questions with new urgency. Who is an American? Who is our neighbor? What are the impacts of immigration on our national economy? How much is too much-or not enough-immigration? How are individual workers and families affected " both native born workers and those newly arrived? How are we to address the reality that over 10 million people are here without legal documentation, but, with few exceptions, leading lives that share our values of work, family and community? How can we stand with some American workers who feel left behind or pushed aside? How are we to protect our borders against those who would do us harm?
"Our immigration laws have failed to keep up with the demand for labor, so the need is filled by those who come into the country without legal sanction. While the Church does not condone law-breaking, their presence here is a reality. We know their names and faces; they are in our parishes, schools, and Catholic Charities agencies. Justice and prudence demand that we treat them with dignity and find a way for their contributions and presence to be recognized within the law. Our Conference has also come to support a carefully-designed and closely-monitored temporary worker program.
"For the Catholic Church, immigration is not a political issue, but a fundamental human and moral issue. We bring to this discussion our faith, our moral principles and our long experience. Through the decades, immigrants have built our communities of faith and they are still bringing new life to our Church. Immigrants are not numbers for us. They are our brothers and sisters; they are our 'neighbors.'"
In the Diocese of Sacramento, perhaps we would do well to call upon our two diocesan patrons to intercede for us so that we might get the right focus on this immensely complex issue of immigration: St. Patrick and the Blessed Mother, under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe. St. Patrick was an immigrant to Ireland. He first arrived there as a slave and was very badly treated. He fell in love with the people, though, and went back to dedicate his whole life to the Irish people. Immigrants, typically, bring vitality to the Church and to their adopted country. As an immigrant, St. Patrick thoroughly transformed Ireland.
Our Blessed Mother, in her appearances in the new world, identified with the native peoples, but also facilitated an acceptance of the Christian faith and integration with the newcomers. She taught that we are all sons and daughters of God. Today, the Church hails Mary as the Queen of America. Both patrons have much to teach us.
Again, I join with Bishop DiMarzio:
"As Catholics, we join this discussion with our belief in the sacredness of human life, the inherent dignity of the human person and the value of work through which human beings share in God's creation. We cannot simply retreat behind walls at our borders or in our hearts and minds. We are called to build bridges between the native born and newcomer, between legitimate concerns about security and national traditions of welcome.
"The principles of our faith and the traditions of our nation call us to welcome those who share these values and hopes. They add vitality and energy, diversity and hope to our communities and our country."
St. Patrick, pray for us. Our Lady of Guadalupe, intercede for us.