How does the outcome of the immigration debate, therefore, impact the future of the American church as well as the nation? 

Close to 5 million U.S. citizen children live in "mixed-status" households, where one or more parents are undocumented. Another 700,000 minors are without legal status, having been brought to the United States by their parents when they were small children.  

In many ways, they are the future leaders of our communities, parishes, and nation, but they constantly live in fear of the knock at the door, where they and/or their parents will be taken away at a moment's notice. Instead of developing their talents and building their confidence in this country, we are alienating them and squandering their potential. In many ways, we are shaking their faith in God.

As pastors, the bishops and priests are charged with ensuring that all Catholics and those of good will are given the opportunity to know God and to be with Him. It is also an obligation of all Catholics. This important responsibility is not dependent upon where a person was born and what legal status he or she may have or not have. Advocating for immigration reform is yet another way for the Catholic clergy, joined by the Catholic faithful, to fulfill that responsibility.

Just as past waves of Catholic immigrants have arrived to enrich, build, and help lead our church and nation, so will this generation, provided we give them the opportunity to reach their God-given potential. Reforming our immigration system and bringing them and their families out of the shadows will help set them, and us, on the right course. 

 

Kevin Appleby has been the director of Migration and Refugee Policy for Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for the past eight years. Kevin has testified before Congress on immigration issues and represented the U.S. Catholic bishops on these issues at public events and with the media. He is a member of the board of the National Immigration Forum and the social policy committee of Catholic Charities USA.