Tuesday, April 23, 2013

HOMILY: Immigration is a Catholic Issue

One thing that I miss-quoted in my homily: the first substantial restrictions on immigration began in 1921, not in the 1960's as I stated originally.  The history of how our country began to restrict immigration is an important history, and you can read more by clicking here to access the article "Why Don't They Come Here Legally?" - an article that can be found on the US Bishops' website.  I've included an excerpt of the history below:

"Yet, until the 1870’s, the federal government did virtually nothing to restrict immigration to the United States. In most cases, immigrants who arrived to the United States in search of work or a new life simply settled in the country and became citizens after a period of time.vi In 1875, Congress passed the Page Law, restricting immigration of women engaged in polygamy and prostitution, with enforcement provisions particularly focused on Chinese women.vii Seven
years later, in 1882, Congress promulgated the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, restricting
immigration of Chinese laborers.viii Congress eventually expanded these restrictions on Chinese immigration to exclude Asian immigrants generally.ix However, immigration by those arriving from non‐Asian countries was not significantly restricted until the 1920’s, by which time many of our immigrant ancestors had already arrived. 

Indeed, during that period immigration from various parts of the world to the United States was widespread; by 1870, forty percent of the residents of New York, Chicago, and other major
metropolitan areas were foreign born. x In 1921, beginning with the Emergency Quota Act, the
United States began to restrict immigration through the use of national origins quotas.xi The
quota system was restructured multiple times in subsequent years, leaving some regions of the
world at a disadvantage at certain points.xii In 1965, amendments to the Immigration and
Nationality Act of 1952 abolished the quota system, prioritizing instead family‐based immigration.xiii  

Subsequent immigration laws have been increasingly restrictive. For instance, in 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) was passed to control and deter unlawful immigration to the United States, making it unlawful to knowingly hire unauthorized immigrants and increasing border enforcement.xiv Ten years later, the Illegal Immigration
Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) created penalties for those who had been “unlawfully present” in the country, establishing three and ten year bars to lawful

vi Kevin J. Fandl, Immigration Posses: U.S. Immigration Law and Local Enforcement Practices,
34 J. Legis. 18 (2008) (“The United States passed its first immigration law in 1790, which
formally moved the topic of immigration from state to federal control and which established a
uniform rule of naturalization by requiring residence for two years. This residence requirement
was expanded to five years in 1795, where it remains today. It was not until 1798 that an alien
registry was established and records of arriving aliens were kept. . . .not until 1862 was a
prohibition on a type of immigrant enacted. Thus, all non‐dangerous immigrants were allowed
entry into the United States and an opportunity to become citizens through the beginning of
the Civil War.”).
vii Kerry Abrams, Polygamy, Prostitution, and the Federalization of Immigration Law, 105
Colum. L. Rev. 641, 643 (April 2005).
viii Id. at 645.
ix Kerry Abrams, The Hidden Dimension of Nineteenth Century Immigration Law, 62 Vand. L.
Rev. 1353, 1354 (October 2009). See also Act of Feb. 5, 1917 (Immigration Act of 1917), ch. 29,
§ 2, 29 Stat. 874, 876 (repealed 1952) (restricting Asian immigration).
x Id.
xi See Act of May 19, 1921 (Quota Act (Three Per Cent Act)), ch. 8, § 2, 42 Stat. 5, 5 (repealed
1952) (establishing the three percent immigration quota limit).
xii See, e.g., Act of May 26, 1924 (Immigration Act of 1924), ch. 190, § 11, 43 Stat. 153, 159
(repealed 1952) (reducing the quota to two percent).
xiii See Pub. L. No. 89‐236 , 79 Stat. 911 (Oct. 3, 1965).
xiv See Pub. L. No. 99‐603 (Act of 11/6/86).
xv See Immigration and Nationality Act § 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(I)‐(II).


  1. Great blog, Father. Thanks for being a solid voice for the Church's teachings.

    Here's my question: shouldn't a state have the right to set it's own immigration policy? As long as we are not torturing or importing people against their will - how does our immigration policy threaten human dignity?

    I don't think it is fair to compare abortion and immigration. This country's abortion policy threatens human dignity far more than this country's immigration policy.

    I would be fine with free and open immigration if we did not have a welfare system which is bankrupting our state. The Church and her members should be the ones to take care of the poor, not the state.




    1. Jeff,

      Great questions.

      1) ABSOLUTELY Abortion is intrinsically evil, whereas how we deal with immigration may or may not be so. I've said it over and over again on this blog - there is a hierarchy of values. At the top is abortion, euthanasia, religious liberty, marriage, etc. Immigration is not at the top of the list, but it is wrong to not fight for something just because it isn't INTRINSICALLY evil. This is especially the case when our specific bishop has asked us to make a push on this issue.

      2) The Church's teaching on "subsidiarity" says that things should be left to states that can be handled by states. In my opinion, one of the few things that you would want a federal government for is to actually have a comprehensive and consistent immigration policy.

      I see a need for a federal government to do three things
      1) the military
      2) immigration
      3) interstates

      Certainly the folks in D.C. have managed to expand greatly upon my list!!

  2. Thanks for the reply. I too agree that DC has expanded the list...

    I was able to visit Ellis Island last year and the year experience was very moving. The audio tour included stories from actual immigrants who remembered their journey to America which really brought the island to life for me.

    I know the US should have legal immigration that is open and fair, but I see a growing entitlement system as the main obstacle to that (we are going bankrupt and robbing people of their ambition and dignity at the same time). Like the application of the death penalty, I suppose immigration policy is an issue about which a faithful Catholic is free to respectfully disagree with his Bishop (within limits of course).

    All people, no matter their status should be treated with dignity, but living here in the south I've seen the consequences of "sanctuary city" policies. I would like to argue that ignoring current immigration laws and procedures tends to hurt the good guys and reward the bad.

    Keep up the good work, Father! I'm do glad I have a new blog to read.



  3. Below are some articles that will give you some logical info regarding the other side of the argument. Please come up with some answers to refute all the various ways it ends up costing our country. We've had amnesty before and it didn't work. If the Catholic Church wants to welcome the stranger, take billions in gov't money and call it 'charity', promote universal healthcare with abortion neutral language and no mandate for them(even though we're screwed by it), and have the majority of the bishops stay silent on the real societal problems of morality in this country, you can kiss my tithe good bye since you already get it in my taxes. Thanks!




  4. http://www.churchmilitant.tv/daily/?today=2013-05-02