Christopher Dodson, Bismarck, column: Bishops reject amnesty for illegal immigrants
By Christopher Dodson BISMARCK -- In his recent column on immigration, Herald columnist Lloyd Omdahl implies that the Catholic bishops support amnesty for illegal immigrants and claims that many Catholics do not agree with the bishops ("Immigrati...
By Christopher Dodson
BISMARCK -- In his recent column on immigration, Herald columnist Lloyd Omdahl implies that the Catholic bishops support amnesty for illegal immigrants and claims that many Catholics do not agree with the bishops ("Immigration reform is a pipe dream," Page A4, Sept. 20).
For the record, the Catholic bishops do not support amnesty. The position of the bishops can be summarized as:
The borders need to be humanely secured, and we need protection from smuggling, human trafficking and violence.
There must exist a process -- but not amnesty -- for permitting persons who have entered our country illegally to pursue legal status. This process must have proportionate consequences for the act of illegal entry, including fines, learning English and going to the "back of the line" to seek citizenship.
Our nation needs a program that would allow needed workers to enter the country legally. This program must include protection of worker rights.
The immigration system must become more family-friendly.
Catholics, by and large, support this position. A 2008 Zogby poll revealed that about 69 percent of Catholics supported a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, provided they register with the government; 62 percent supported the concept if they were required to learn English.
Omdahl cynically asserts that the Catholic bishops have inserted themselves in the debate just because the "vast majority of illegal immigrants are Catholic." Certainly, our parishes, schools, hospitals and charitable services bring us face-to-face with families who may have members who are not here legally.
Our clergy and laity have seen first-hand the devastation from drug smuggling, weapons proliferation and human trafficking due to unsecured borders. But these experiences bear witness to the urgent need for reform rather than provide the sole reason for the church's involvement.
The church's concern stems from the need to respect the dignity of all human persons, their work, and their families. It is hardly new or dependent upon who is immigrating. Indeed, it hearkens back to the call of the scriptures to treat the alien with fairness (Leviticus 19:33-34) and to welcome the stranger (Matthew 25:35).
Dodson is executive director of and general counsel for the North Dakota Catholic Conference.