Texas Catholic bishops call for immigration enforcement that respects human dignity of migrants

Any enforcement measures must be targeted, proportional, and humane

AUSTIN — National Migration Week, which has been observed for more than a quarter of a century, carries renewed importance this year. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, and Archbishop José H. Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, president and vice president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, offered these thoughts in their message:

“Migration is, more than anything, an act of great hope. Our brothers and sisters who are forced to migrate suffer devastating family separation and most often face dire economic conditions to the point they cannot maintain a very basic level of living. Refugees flee their countries due to war and persecution which inspires them to risk everything for an opportunity to live in peace. As Catholics in the United States, most of us can find stories in our own families of parents, grandparents or great-grandparents leaving the old country for the promise of America. Take time this Migration Week to seek out those stories. Let us remind ourselves of those moments when our loved ones were forced to seek the mercy of others in a new land.”

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops holds justice for immigrants as a key priority for the 85th Texas Legislature. This special concern for the immigrants is rooted in Scripture and Church tradition. The TCCB supports immigration reform that is merciful, charitable, and compassionate to those here simply working for a better life, while also recognizing the legitimate responsibility of the federal government to maintain control of the U.S. borders.

There are several proposed bills before the Texas Legislature that are intended to thwart “sanctuary cities,” by holding local entities accountable in enforcing complex federal law. The TCCB opposes these bills, including SB4. The TCCB is supporting other bills which are intended to improve law enforcement triaging for those working on the border (SB 168) and to study the costs associated with providing humanitarian relief to refugee children (HB 278).

“Catholics are called to stand with new American immigrants as our brothers and sisters, regardless of their country of origin or faith,” explained Jennifer Carr Allmon, executive director of the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops. “This is who we are. This is what we do. We believe each human being is made in the image and likeness of God, is worthy of respect and has a right to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’”

The TCCB believes that by increasing lawful means for migrants to enter, live, and work in the United States, law enforcement will be better able to focus upon those who truly threaten public safety: drug and human traffickers, smugglers, and would‐be terrorists. Any enforcement measures must be targeted, proportional, and humane.

“Unfortunately, some policies and tactics in effect or proposed at both the federal and state level do not meet that standard,” Allmon said. “Instead they have or likely will have the effect of undermining the human dignity of migrants and creating a confrontational and often violent relationship between enforcement officers and migrants. They can and do have negative impacts on the rule of law and the maintenance of public order.”

The Catholic Church in Texas can assist federal authorities in training and in understanding the concerns and needs of undocumented migrants, Allmon noted.

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops is the association of the Roman Catholic bishops of Texas. Through the TCCB, the bishops provide a moral and social public policy voice that includes monitoring all legislation pertaining to Catholic moral and social teaching; accredit the state's Catholic schools; and maintain records that reflect the work and the history of the Catholic Church in Texas.