October 01, 2007
The Catholic Church versus the border wall

I think this kind of conflict between churches and anti-immigration forces is going to become more and more high profile as the debate rages on.

The Most Rev. Raymundo Peña of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brownsville blasted the idea of a border wall at a rally and pachanga in Brownsville on Saturday.

Peña was the keynote speaker at an event sponsored by the No Border Wall group that drew around 400 people to Dean Porter Park. Peña drew an analogy between immigrants and Jesus Christ.

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph were migrants," Peña told the crowd. "Jesus, the Son of God himself, became human in a magnificent migration from heaven to earth. Like many migrants today, he was not welcomed."


Peña said that immigration has been, and continues to be an ongoing pastoral concern of the church, and Christian gospel must be taken into consideration when considering a border wall.

"For us this is not a political issue and I am not making a political statement," said Peña said. "In the ensuing debate following 9/11, the scriptures, our moral principles together with all the bishops of Texas call for an immigration law that is compassionate and fair."

Peña said the Church is not condoning illegal immigration but rather calls for law that respects the laws of those already here, and who have worked within our economy albeit without papers as well as the rights of new immigrants.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is calling for a comprehensive reform of our nation's immigration legislation. The USCCB is seeking policies that create legal avenues for migration, reduce waiting times, protect "unity of the family" and give special consideration to undocumented immigrants who are working in the U.S.

Immigrants are taxpaying people who complement the American labor force, and contribute to our Social Security System without reaping its benefits, Peña said.

"Homeland security must be an ongoing endeavor of our government, but it must be sought after with justice, creativity, and effectiveness," Peña said. "There is no wall long enough or high enough to fence out or keep out the real economic and human forces driving immigration."

This issue speaks to many things that the Catholic Church is all about, in particular that of economic justice. Expect to see more of this, and not just with the Catholic Church. The current controversy in Spring is a good example of what I'm talking about.

The Cypress Creek Interfaith Coalition for Economic Development plans to go ahead with a center in Spring, despite objections at a town hall meeting Tuesday night that drew about 200 people, many opposed to the idea, said Franklin Moore, associate pastor at Cypress Creek Christian Church. "We're more committed than ever," he said. Moore said religious leaders plan to release more specifics about the proposed center in six to eight weeks.

Organizers with the Spring-based U.S. Border Watch organization vowed to stop the creation of a formal hiring hall, and on Wednesday started circulating petitions in neighborhoods near Steubner-Airline, where day laborers gather each morning in parking lots and on sidewalks, waiting for work.

Curtis Collier, president of U.S. Border Watch, said the petitions call on local businesses to report the day laborers to Harris County for trespassing, since they often stand on private property. He said he was "disappointed" to hear the religious leaders plan to go ahead with the proposal.

"It was made very, very clear that the community did not want it," he said. "I don't understand why people don't understand that the American people have had enough of illegal immigration."

Moore said Collier's plan to shut down the informal hiring site with a no-trespassing ordinance could cause the day laborers to lose work, and leave their families hungry. "It's unconscionable," he said.

One can of course harp on the letter of the law here, and for sure many people will. But that's the thing about being a church - you can speak in terms of moral obligations and higher laws and stuff like that. I daresay that no matter how you slice it, hungry children are going to trump INS procedures. Keep an eye on this.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 01, 2007 to National news