WASHINGTON, D.C — Robert Menard, OFM, is one of many Americans who believe that some recently-proposed immigration laws are inappropriate and unfair. He was one of a half dozen people interviewed this month on PBS’s weekly program “Religion and Ethics.“ The show focused on activities and opinions in northern Virginia where a resolution introduced in Prince William County has generated heated discussions.
The reporter, Lucky Serverson, said that “local and state governments have approved hundreds of tough new immigration resolutions since Congress failed to pass national legislation. But some religious leaders say they are deeply troubled by the done of the debate — that it goes against the precepts of all the major faiths. Father Menard is also disturbed about what is not being said.”
“I think one of the great sins is the silence that is echoing around this topic,” said Robert, guardian of St. Francis of Assisi Friary in Triangle, Va. The whole discussion seems to be around the question of law. No one’s talking about the values to care for those who are being oppressed — to treat the alien in the land with respect and dignity.”
He said that the fact that one proposed law prevents services from municipal groups such as police and fire departments from being provided to illegal immigrants is creating a culture of fear on both sides.
“People fear to go across their streets, or to knock on the door and to get to know their neighbors whether they are from one culture or another,” he said. ”And so the suspicion builds.
“It’s important that we name the sin that is part of every community and every tradition. I’m speaking specifically of racism.”
The reporter said, “Father Menard says among Christian, Jewish, and Islamic traditions ,civil law has always been subservient to values and judgment.”
“If your family is struggling to survive, then to steal a piece of bread is okay. It’s not only okay it’s something that you’re required to do by your moral responsibility to provide for your family,” Robert said.
Russell Testa, the Province’s director of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, said “What Bob is doing is living out the best of the Franciscan tradition of courteously welcoming strangers.’” Testa will speaking about immigration at Triangle’s St. Francis Parish on Oct. 24.
The complete text of the recent television program can be found on the PBS Web site.
The Province offers consulting services in midtown Manhattan at the Franciscan Immigration Center, which is open weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. For information, contact its director, Brian Jordan, OFM, at 212-736-8500 ext. 377.