As a catholic, especially living in Los Angeles, a declared sanctuary city, one of the most perplexing problems for me is immigration and immigration reform. It’s one of the hot political topics right now with President Trump’s agenda of immigration reform placing emphasis on the building of a wall on our southern border and strict ICE enforcement.
The Immigration Question
More than thirty-five years ago, I was personally affected by the immigrants who were just then beginning to flow over our borders from El Salvador. My daughter had just given birth to her third child in what turned out to be a very difficult delivery. The doctor wouldn’t release her from the hospital unless she had full time, live-in help. This was quite a dilemma because no family member could do it and a professional baby nurse was financially out of the question. The problem was solved when one of the nurses knew of a newly arrived Salvadorian who needed a job and place to stay. That’s how I came to know Anna.
We helped Anna’s family get into this country and today we consider her, her sisters and her children as part of our family. They’re all hard working residents of our city, the children are well educated, and what I especially like, they are solid members of the Catholic Church.
On another occasion immigrants came to my rescue and blessed my life. For the last five-and-a-half years of my husband’s life, I needed twenty-four hour help. I was determined to keep him home and he was a large man with a debilitating disease. An immigrant lady from Guatemala and numerous men from the Philippines took such good care of him that the doctors who examined him marveled at his well kept condition.
The other side of the coin, the downside of immigrants flooding into our communities was our schools being filled with students who didn’t speak English. Classrooms were overcrowded and no longer were teachers hired who were the cream of the crop. The main criteria had to be did they speak Spanish. English as a Second Language classes were in most every school.
Hospitals were also affected negatively, especially the emergency rooms. They were always filled with immigrants who had no other source of medical care. Hospitals, by law, have to attend to anyone coming to their emergency rooms regardless of their ability to pay. This hit the hospitals financially and the care for everyone went down. The judicial system, jails, prisons as well as the welfare system and other government programs were hit, and at a huge cost.
So my positive and negative experiences of immigration left me very conflicted. Then my granddaughter Shannon gave me a book, “Immigration and the Next America – Renewing the Soul of Our Nation” by Archbishop Jose H. Gomez. Reading the book I learned that Archbishop Gomez was born and raised in Monterey, Mexico but had strong ties to close relatives who were long-time residents of the U.S. side of the border in Texas. Today he serves as the Archbishop of Los Angeles and everyday sees the struggles and trials of “illegal aliens.” This background gives him a unique perspective on the immigration issue.
I learned from the book that years before any Englishmen touched our shores, the Spanish were already here driven by missionary priests motivated with the strong desire to evangelize the indigenous peoples following the words of Jesus to His apostles: “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and the Holy Spirit.” MT 28:19
The Spanish established the first permanent settlement in North America in 1526, some 80 years before the English established Jamestown, their first settlement. The reason we never hear about this is because ‘the winners write the history’.
I read on and then began to become discouraged as there seemed to be so much entitlement given to the Hispanic immigrants. But then about three-fourths into the book the approach became more balanced with these words:
“The right to emigrate includes obligations. The ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’ spells these out: “Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying out civic burdens.”
“Catholic social doctrine on immigration also recognizes that governments have the duty to control migration into their countries and defend their borders. As guardians of law and order for the common good, governments should consider immigration’s impact on their domestic economies and national security. They should set reasonable limits on who they allow to cross their borders, and they can require reasonable documentation and regulate access to public welfare and other services.”
This is why I so love and appreciate my Catholic faith and Church. They have the answers to all my questions. They preserve and guard Logos in the Magisterium. Logos is all intelligibility, all creativity, all truth the reason and meaning of all things. Logos in the Greek language translates to word. St. John begins his gospel telling us:
In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things came into being, not one thing came into being except through him. JN 1:1-3