Welcoming the Stranger: Franciscans and Immigration

Russ Testa Features

In December 2005, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill calling for severe border enforcement and punishing measures for immigrants. Many of you may have recently heard about this bill when Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles spoke out about it.

The bill that was passed in the House of Representatives, “H.R. 4437-The Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005,” is part of a larger trend in the United States to demonize immigrants. There are regular stories and efforts by those who oppose immigration that seek to paint immigrants in a bad light.

As Franciscans, particularly ones that minister with several immigrant communities, we must add our voice to the many, like Cardinal Mahony, in seeking justice in our system of immigration. To this end, the JPIC office recommends the following immediate actions:

As an individual and as a ministry, join the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ campaign for immigration reform. This can be found at www.justiceforimmigrants.org. The U.S. Bishops have put together some wonderful resources and are organizing key political action.

Call your Senators and let them know that we want real immigration reform. Tips for what to say to your elected officials and how to contact them can be found at the “Justice for Immigrants” Web site from the U.S. Bishops. The bill that was passed by the House of Representatives is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Now the time to influence this legislation so that it does not punish immigrants.

In the longer term, the Province’s JPIC Office is putting together a working group to help us develop our strategy for how to get justice for immigrants. In addition, the JPIC office will be contacting ministries to find stories of immigrants that can be shared more widely.

There will be an attempt to demonize immigrants; we need to offer stories that retain their human dignity. There are also some national Franciscan efforts being developed around justice for immigrants. Stay tuned for more information in the future.

If you would like more information on Holy Name Province efforts or would like to help in furthering our strategy, please contact Russ Testa at (202) 541-5245 or testa@wtu.edu.