US policy contributes to illegal immigration, Wisconsin bishops say

By Kevin Jones

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Despite widespread concern over illegal immigration in the country, some American foreign and domestic policies have actually increased the problem, argue the Catholic bishops of Wisconsin.

“Our nation’s incessant demand for inexpensive goods and services is one of the driving forces behind the export of American jobs and the hiring of immigrant workers,” the bishops wrote in a Dec. 12 pastoral letter.

“Our nation is a magnet for immigrants because there is work here and because of the international disparity in wages. Our aging population needs younger workers.”

They noted that entire “economic sectors – service, construction, agriculture – would falter without immigrant labor.” Particularly in Wisconsin, “our dairy industry relies heavily on immigrants.”

The bishops said that only 5,000 permanent and 60,000 temporary annual visas allow for low-wage workers to enter the country – numbers which the bishops said are “far below” the number of workers needed.

Failure to reform this “inadequate” immigration system ensures illegal entry, they said.

Cultural tensions have always accompanied large migrations and a “long period of adjustment” is often necessary amid worries that immigrants compete for jobs or threaten the established culture. However, previous waves of immigrants helped build the country into what it is today and new immigrants serve to reinvigorate the “highest ideals” of America, the bishops said.

Ultimately, Catholics must uphold “the sanctity and dignity of every human life,” they underscored, noting that the Church’s “consistent message” is to “welcome the stranger.”

Wealthy nations have the duty to welcome foreigners who are searching for a better life and to respect their natural right to emigrate, though governments do have the right to regulate immigration for the sake of the common good.

“This duty and this right are not incompatible; it is possible to respect both,” the bishops said.

They recognized that Catholics in good conscience hold differing views about immigration policy and urged the faithful to pray for immigrants and lawmakers, to read the U.S. bishops’ conference resources on immigration, and to educate their fellow citizens and legislators.

Catholics should “reach out” to immigrants and begin building “communities of hope” while rejecting state and federal legislation that “unfairly profiles or discriminates against immigrants.”

“Our Catholic faith can and must transcend political and cultural turmoil,” the bishops’ letter concluded. “Let us remember that in the end we are all migrants on this earth, traveling together in hope towards our loving God.”

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