Getting tough on undocumented immigrants has consequences for the family, which the Catholic Church teaches is the basic unit of the social fabric of society. The May 9 raid of a factory in Mount Pleasant ripped a gaping hole in that fabric, leaving grieving families of the 32 men arrested for alleged immigration violations wondering how to mend that hole.
These immigrant families have faces: a mother holding a baby while keeping an eye out for a preschooler running around a church hall. A 15-year-old who gets a catch in his throat while talking about his hardworking step-father. A college student inspired by her dad whose sacrifices made it possible for her to pursue higher education.
The Iowa Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of Iowa’s bishops, supports the basic human rights of documented and undocumented immigrants and refugees. “This includes fair treatment under the law for all workers, including legal representation during deportation proceedings, a just living wage, fair labor practices, safe working conditions and humane treatment of children and families” (iowacatholicconference.org).
Our existing, outdated immigration system obliterates those rights and creates a new group of scapegoats: people of color who live south of the U.S. border. Have we forgotten how the Irish were treated a century ago? How the Germans were ostracized after World War I? How the Japanese were interned in camps in California during World War II? Our existing immigration laws, which include an upsurge in enforcement and a drastic reduction in admittance of refugees, move toward history repeating itself. Where is the mercy that we pray for every weekend during Mass?
Many of these immigrant families left their homelands searching for a place where they could provide for the most basic needs of themselves and their families. “The desperation of their circumstances does not correspond with the inordinate length of time (sometimes over 15 years) required to wait in line for the present system to process a visa request” (iowacatholiconference.org).
The U.S. has the right to secure its borders but why wouldn’t we welcome families needed to help fill the vacancies in our workforce created by an aging U.S. population? Why can’t we agree to support measures that secure our border but respect human rights and human life?
On Mother’s Day, Bishop Thomas Zinkula saw the faces of immigrant families impacted by the ICE raid in Mount Pleasant. He said it reinforced his conviction of the need for com- prehensive, compassionate and commonsense immigration reform.
So where do we start?
• Pray for immigration reform that treats immigrants and refugees with respect, compas- sion and their God-given dignity.
• Go to the Iowa Catholic Conference web- site (iowacatholicconference.org) to read the Iowa bishops’ viewpoint on immigration and immigration policies. The website provides links to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (usccb.org) resources on immigration.
• Speak to your community’s police chief or county sheriff and ask how they will enforce Iowa’s new immigration law, which takes effect July 1. Law enforcement officers will be required to comply with “any instruc- tion made in an ICE detainer request.” Law enforcement agencies will be prohibited from having blanket policies that impede the ability to ask an individual about his/her immigration status, talk to immigration or other law enforcement about a person’s immigration sta- tus, cooperate with ICE or enforce immigra- tion laws. Solicit the support of your police chief or county sheriff to ensure that undocu- mented individuals are treated in an appropri- ate, respectful manner.
• Make a donation to First Presbyterian Church, 902 S. Walnut St., Mount Pleasant, Iowa, 52641, for immigrant families impacted by the May 9 ICE raid. In the memo line, write: Iowa WINS (Iowa Welcomes Immigrant NeighborS).
Together, let us mend the gaping hole in the social fabric caused by outdated immigration policies. These policies are detrimental to the family, the unit of life which we as church hold close to our hearts.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor