Jennifer Allmon, Executive Director
The Catholic Church has a long history of involvement in the immigration issue. Our experience in working with immigrants throughout the years compels us to speak out on the issue of immigration reform, which is a moral and human rights issue. The Church does not condone or encourage illegal immigration because it is not good for society or for the migrant, who lives in fear and in the shadows. We plead with our government leaders to change our laws to ensure that we, as a nation and as a state, enforce our laws only in a manner that respects the rights and dignity given by our Creator to each person.
We must emphasize that the church supports the right of a sovereign nation to control its borders. We want the federal government to enact effective and humane border management as part of a framework of comprehensive immigration reforms. All law enforcement agencies can and should cooperate with each other but should not take over each other’s responsibilities or jurisdiction. The obligation to control the international border lies with federal authorities.
For years, burdens of an unworkable system of immigration have fallen heavily on states and communities along the US-Mexico border. The human and moral cost of ongoing federal inaction to create an effective set of policies to ensure safe and orderly migration is tragically reflected both in an unprecedented number of persons wishing to enter the country and the skyrocketing number of deaths of migrants at the border in the past year.
However, we must oppose SB 2, which fails to account for the years long asylum process and makes state crimes of a person’s presence in the United States while pursuing legal federal processes. Our key concern remains the dignity of each human person who crosses the border who has fundamental rights, such as the right to safety. The federal immigration system provides a process for the government to ascertain the difference among traffickers, victims, and legitimate refugees and this bill fails to adopt that standard. Many victims and asylum seekers cross the border without lawful status but then file for asylum or another form of relief as soon as possible and can obtain it through the federal system. This bill would create a new offense of improper entry from a foreign nation, denying the right to asylum for those legitimately seeking it.
Immigration enforcement should be exercised in a way that is targeted, proportional, and humane.
By “targeted” we mean that enforcement resources should be focused so that those who are dangerous are more easily identified and apprehended. Enforcement policies should be tailored and not overly broad, so the basic rights of all immigrants are not abridged.
By “proportional” we mean that enforcement of immigration laws should not feature unnecessary penalties or force. Immigration control officers and border patrol agents should receive intensive training on appropriate enforcement tactics and use of force.
Finally, by “humane” we mean that in any enforcement action, the human rights and dignity of the person should be preserved and respected to the greatest extent possible. Families should not be divided and should receive special consideration. Undocumented immigrants should not be detained for lengthy periods or intermingled with violent offenders. Asylum seekers should receive appropriate screening by a qualified adjudicator. Children should be accommodated within a child welfare context.
In conclusion, we recognize the need to remain vigilant against outside threats but not at the cost of sacrificing our Texas heritage, which was formed by the consistent application of justice, the unwavering protection of self-governance, and the promise of opportunity for those who seek a better life for themselves and their families. The bishops ask all people of good will to care for those who are poor or who are in despair. The overwhelming majority of immigrants, whether documented or undocumented, are not criminals. They simply need a job or need to flee from desperate situations. God has brought them before us – perhaps not in the way that we would have preferred for them to be brought before us – but they are before us now and we need to care for them. God created each one of them and loves each one.
We welcome the opportunity to work with civic leaders, especially our Texas legislators, to uphold the rights and dignity of every person and to foster the common good.