The State legislature in Arizona recently passed, and the Governor recently signed, a bill purported to enforce federal immigration laws through the actions of state and local law enforcement officials. Many have called the law racist. Others call it unconstitutional. Some call it common sense. I’m not going to dive into the tempting waters of the debate just yet, but I will offer some thoughts on the bill in light of Catholic teaching.
But do not think the controversy ends by looking at Catholic teaching. There are good Catholics who disagree about the issue and the law. Some say it is a fundamental violation of charity toward our neighbor. Those on the other side cite the right of a state to protect itself and its borders. Both are valid arguments, and there is no firm moral truth to uphold here as there is in the abortion debate.
Today, I offer you some thoughts by Bishop Thomas Olmsted, the Bishop of Phoenix. (Incidentally, he was my first rector in the seminary and there are few people I have greater respect for than he.) Bishop Olmsted notes that sovereign states have the clear authority to protect themselves and to enforce their laws. The broader point, however, is that our federal immigration system is broken and badly needs reform. That is something we can all agree on. And as long as the immigration system is as confusing and piecemeal as it is now, there is no chance we will have any lasting success in securing our borders or our country.
I appreciate Bishop Olmsted’s words, as we all need to be reminded of the call to love our neighbor. As I will explain in further posts, I think that our immigration system in its current form often goes after the wrong people. We need to rethink what our goals are as a nation and renew our commitment to truly American values. For now, remember the call to love our neighbor and to side with those who are the weakest and most vulnerable among us.