It is being said that our country is full and can no longer accept migrants fleeing from their countries.
My faith and U.S. law says that is wrong. In addition to my duties as bishop of the Diocese of Orange, I am also chairman of the board directors of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., known as CLINIC. Our mission embraces the Gospel value of welcoming the stranger. We promote the dignity and protect the rights of migrants in partnership with a dedicated network of Catholic and community legal immigration programs across this great country.
Several of our affiliates have direct experience with the migrants at our borders. The leader of one of those affiliates Sister Norma Pimentel, director of Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley, has spoken eloquently of her organization’s work to receive and tend to the migrants arriving at her shelter. A member of the Missionaries of Jesus religious order, she has met with Pope Francis about the people who obtain help from her agency. In a column she penned, published by the Washington Post, she concluded with the observation that: “Regardless of who we are and where we came from, we remain part of the human family and are called to live in solidarity with one another.” She added that “We must put human dignity first.”
Our faith tells us that there is room at our table. Our laws say the same. As one of many democracies around this world to learn the importance of respecting refugees after the horrors of World War II, we are a signatory of the U.N. Refugee Convention. We also have implemented the convention in our laws.
Those laws command us to receive those who arrive at our borders after fleeing persecution and to process their claims. There is no need to detain them while this process moves forward unless they represent a danger to the United States.
Orange County is home to 100,000 Catholics of Vietnamese ancestry. They represent some of the 1.6 million refugees from Vietnam our nation welcomed between 1975 and 1997. I can’t imagine this part of Southern California without them. The contributions of Vietnamese immigrants to the culture, economy, faith life and vibrancy of this region can’t even be quantified.
The overwhelming majority of our brothers and sisters who come to our border pose no threat. In fact, they bring resilience and resources which they can and will share with us.
Economists, demographers, farmers and business leaders have all weighed in with data showing this country is far from “full” and that our nation in fact needs more immigrants. The president, in this year’s State of the Union address, said, “Legal immigrants enrich our nation and strengthen our society in countless ways. I want people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally.”
The people who come to our border and seek asylum are doing just that, following the legal process to be admitted to a country they hope will protect them from the dangers they face at home.
This is how we embrace the Gospel and welcome the stranger as required by God’s law. We urge you to do the same.