We are a country of immigrants, most of us can count on one hand the generations of our own ancestors who first arrived. Human thriving depends on some basic principals that are rooted in common sense. I believe one can frame Catholic social teaching with four pillars, namely: human dignity, religious liberty, solidarity and subsidiarity. First and foremost is human dignity, because without humans there is no reason for any kind of liberty. Humans only exist if they have life. So logically the right to life is absolutely fundamental to a sound anthropology.
The new legislation that is drafted, that Bishop Kevin Rhoades supported (S. 1615, and H.R. 3440), is far superior to the executive order that will lose its force in six months from President Donald Trump’s decision. One can argue if that was a prudent decision, but it will compel anyone who has a heart to help the young immigrant children who were brought into this country by their families.
I have been involved in Hispanic ministry for about 17 years of my 25 years as a priest, and all too often it seems that our people are being politically manipulated. The executive order, as it stands now, compelled each child to pay fees of $465 every two years, and this does not include the additional cost of having someone fill out the necessary forms, usually a lawyer or some other service institution, which may double or triple the actual cost of process. In other words, every family normally pays at least $465 (likely closer to $1,000) for each child every two years for the “privilege” of not being deported. Sadly, it appears to be used as a political tool to give the pretense that one party cares more than the other.
In reality the new legislation being proposed (that now they will be forced to act on as the result of Trump’s decision) will protect these people for eight years, and if they live a life free of violent crimes, they then will have the option for a path to citizenship. In the meantime, they will be free of the burdensome biannual fees and will be free to work and be productive in our society.
These children (and now some young adults) are in a sense, people without a country. Often times their command of the Spanish language is limited, and they would not be welcomed with open arms if they were sent back to their country.
Trump’s actions since taking office may in fact have saved more immigrant lives than the previous administration. One of the first things he did was reinstate the Mexico City policy that blocks funding of abortions of Mexican children. I may have missed it, but for that action alone, he should have received great praise from our bishops. He also nominated a Supreme Court justice who seems to have a real appreciation for human dignity.
Whatever people think of Trump, his actions have supported the culture of life ostensibly much more than the previous administration. By him giving Congress six months to act on the drafted legislation (that Rhoades had praised) it will hopefully serve to deliver our immigrants from onerous fees and unnecessary fear and should lead to real stability and serve to free them from political manipulation.
As a people we must be thoughtful and prayerful enough to bring unity and not division, foster love, not hate. We must strive to recognize the great dignity of every human person, even if they are our political enemies.
The Rev. Glenn Kohrman is pastor of Holy Family and St. John the Baptist Catholic churches.