The current immigration system is undoubtedly flawed. Border enforcement strategies have contributed to deaths, many immigrants have been forced to live in an unauthorized capacity, and family members of lawful permanent residents have been required to wait years for reunion.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops knows that this system undermines human dignity and often results in suffering. They also believe that the Church, as an institution established by Christ, has the obligation to point out the moral consequences of such a system and to advocate for reforms.
• Immigration is not outside the domain of the Church; the Church’s role in immigration is derived from Scriptures, as well as from Catholic Social Teaching.
• In Matthew, Christ specifically advises his followers to “welcome the stranger” for “what you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me” (Mt 25:35-40).
Mirroring the paradigm set by Christ, Catholics are to have an inclusive attitude towards immigrants. In fact, many immigrants who need the support of the Church are actually Catholics.
The Catholic Church instructs the faithful that good government has two major duties:
• The first duty is to welcome the foreigner out of charity and respect for the human person. People have the right to immigrate when necessary and governments must accommodate this right as best as possible.
• The second duty is to secure the border of the nation and enact laws for the sake of the common good. Good government has the right to enforce laws and all people must obey the legitimate laws established by the government.
The USCCB accepts the rightful role of the United States government in enforcing immigration laws. However, USCCB opposes “enforcement only” immigration policies and instead, supports comprehensive immigration reform that includes some enforcement measures.
In the pastoral letter, Strangers No Longer, the USCCB outlined the elements of their plan for comprehensive immigration reform. The bishops do not intend to legislate specific immigration policies, but they do intend to offer policy suggestions that are guided by Catholic principles. Their main suggestions include:
(1) earned legalization
(2) a future worker program
(3) family‐based immigration reform
(4) restoration of due process rights
(5) addressing root causes of migration
(6) humane enforcement measures
It is also important to recognize that the USCCB does not excuse unlawful entry or circumventions of immigration laws. The United States has the right to secure its border when necessary. Yet the bishops believe that the current immigration system must respond to the realities of separated families and growing labor demands. These are the main factors that compel people to immigrate to the United States, whether in an authorized or unauthorized fashion.
The Bishops also insist that unauthorized immigrants who are detained by our government must be treated fairly and humanely. The USCCB recently issued a report and plan to reform the immigrant detention system.
The Catholic bishops’ Justice for Immigrants: A Journey of Hope (JFI) campaign is designed to mobilize Catholic institutions and individuals in support of comprehensive immigration reform.
• The USCCB seeks to build bridges between parties and help establish an immigration system that is just for all.
• A functioning immigration system will serve the needs of immigrants, while taking into consideration the legitimate concerns of the United States.
Some ways to get involved:
(1) Join the Justice for Immigrants campaign
(2) Welcome immigrants into your local parish
(3) Send a postcard to Congress expressing your support for meaningful immigration reform
(4) Host social events to encourage immigrants to integrate within your community
(5) Donate to the National Catholic Fund for Migration and Refugee Services
(6) Educate others on the Catholic plan for immigration reform
Op-Ed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York: “Immigration Reform: A Moral Imperative” (September 6, 2013)
USCCB Chairman Urges Obama Administration To Reconsider Proposed Policy To Return Unaccompanied Children to Their Home Countries Without Proper Due Process (July 2014)
Video: The Dignity of Immigrants (March 2014)
National Catholic Register: “Not Only One Way: Catholics Debate Social Teaching in Immigration Reform” (July 5, 2013)
A Prayer For Immigrant Justice
Blessed are You, Lord God,
King of all creation.
Through Your goodness, we live in this land
that You have so richly blessed.
Help us always to recognize our
Blessings come from You
and remind us to share them
with others, especially those who come
to us today from other lands.
Help us to be generous, just, and welcoming,
as You have been and are generous to us.
USCCB on Immigration
Justice for Immigrants Campaign
Pastoral Letter Strangers No Longer
 “The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2241).
 “Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2241).