A brother seminarian gave a presentation to our class today concerning the effect of immigration on Catholic ministry in Alabama. His initial research aimed at a more holistic understanding of Hispanic-American Catholicism, but his interviews with an Archbishop, priests, lay ministers and Hispanics in the South turned up a more critical and timely topic: immigration laws.
His brief presentation gave enough insight and facts to illustrate how Alabama - like other states - is cracking down on illegal aliens. It only seems right to pursue justice in all forms of "illegal" activity in our country or any other. However, some laws are prohibiting citizens from any forms of activity that will "encourage" illegal persons from remaining in the country. It is illegal to give undocumented persons rides to the doctor, food, clothing, financial assistance, to teach them English, or counsel a mother who has a problem pregnancy.
Alabama's HB 56 is known as "the toughest" of them all, and Christian leaders have joined in raising their voices on behalf of the poor. In this context, the poor are not necessarily materially poor, but poor in influence, in the ability to receive rightful dignity.
Archbishop Thomas Rodi beautifully crafted a message to his flock about a year ago, summoning a serious look at the law's impact on our Christian duty to love our neighbor. He writes,
I did not wish to enter into a legal action against the government of Alabama. It is not my temperament to look for an argument. I prayed fervently about this matter, and my prayer kept bringing me back to the motto I chose ten years ago for my bishop’s coat of arms: "The love of Christ impels us" (2 Cor 5:14) Indeed, the love of Christ impels us to "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit..." (Matthew 28:19). No law is just which prevents the proclamation of the Gospel, the baptizing of believers, or love shown to neighbor in need. I do not wish to stand before God and, when God asks me if I fed him when he was hungry or gave him to drink when he was thirsty, to reply: yes, Lord, as long as you had the proper documents.When it comes to this delicate, complicated matter, we must all take a serious, prayerful look at our role. We are not promised ease, yet we are commissioned and given the gift of faith of our God with us.
|Ellis Island (Image source)|