Miami archbishop: Fixing immigration system doesn't mean demonization

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jorge Duenes, Reuters

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski said laws need to be changed to fix the country’s
broken immigration system, but in the process, immigrants should not be

“Fixing illegal immigration
does not require the demonization of the so-called ‘illegals,'” said
Archbishop Wenski, addressing an audience at a Nov. 28 event in Miami sponsored
by the Immigration Partnership and Coalition Fund.

“America has always been a
land of promise and opportunity for those willing to work hard. We can provide
for our national security and secure borders without making America, a nation
of immigrants, less a land of promise or opportunity for immigrants.”

His comments were posted on the
Archdiocese of Miami’s website.

Laws, he said, are “meant
to benefit, not to enslave, mankind,” and the laws in the country,
regarding immigration, are too “antiquated” and
“inadequate” to deal with the problem.

“Outdated laws, ill adapted
to the increasing interdependence of our world and the globalization of labor,
are bad laws,” the archbishop said.

Proposed changes, or laws,
should consider human dignity and the national interest, he said, otherwise,
“bad laws will be replaced by worse ones.”

He mentioned Rosa Parks,
as well as “patriots” who participated in the Boston Tea Party in
1773, as examples of those who opposed laws that didn’t advance the common
good. By refusing to sit in the back of the bus, Parks broke a law in 1955
requiring racial segregation on buses, and the Boston Tea Party participants
protested taxation without representation.

Some laws, Archbishop Wenski said, can even legally
sanction an underclass and such was the case of the Jim Crow laws that
segregated parts of the U.S.

“Our nation should not
tolerate the emergence of a new underclass in our society composed of
undocumented workers,” he said.

And restrictive legislation
focused solely on enforcement will only make matters worse, he added, while
saying that money spent on border enforcement for the last two decades hasn’t
stopped the problem, instead “illegal immigration increased because the
labor market demanded willing and able workers.”

Businesses that abuse and
exploit immigrants rely on their labor, he said, “and, in doing so, help
fuel the growth of the American economy.” 

The preferable route is that
they benefit from a reliable and legal work force, he said. Comprehensive immigration
reform, he said, would legalize those already working in the U.S. without
proper documentation, provide for industry’s labor needs and allow border
agents to chase after real criminals instead of chasing economic migrants

some are too intent in calling attention to immigrants by name-calling and
demonizing them, including labeling them “lawbreakers, equating them with
terrorists intent on hurting us.”

“However, these people,
including DACA kids, only ask for the opportunity to become legal — to come
out of the shadows where they live in fear of a knock on their door in the dead
of night or an immigration raid to their work place,” he said, referencing
youth brought to the U.S. illegally and who benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.

In September, President Donald Trump rescinded DACA and called on Congress to pass a measure by March to preserve it. Many are calling for passage of the proposed Development, Relief
and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, to do just that.

“In any case, these
migrants are not so much ‘breaking the law’; they are being ‘broken by the
law,'” Archbishop Wenski said.

Though some resent the Catholic
bishops’ advocacy on behalf of “illegals,” he said, “we stand in
a proud moral tradition.”

“For this reason, we call
upon the legislative branch of our government to seize the opportunity for a
comprehensive fix to our broken immigration system,” he said, and called
for a “fix for the Dreamers,” as DACA recipients are popularly known,
and for a solution for Haitians and Central Americans facing deportation as the
Trump administration ends the Temporary Protected Status program, known as TPS.

is granted temporarily to migrants who come from countries that have
experienced disruptions such as natural disasters, civil wars or other threats.

That “would be a good place
to start,” said the archbishop.

“At least it could show
that the sky won’t come falling down if some enlightened legislation is passed.
It could inspire Congress to go further toward a more comprehensive
reform,” he said.

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