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Catholic leaders call respect for human dignity and rights in immigration policies

By Patrick B. McGuigan


On March 10, the Oklahoma House of Representatives gave overwhelming approval to House Bill 1446. The measure is intended to toughen state enforcement of immigration provisions. The proposal cleared the House with an overwhelming bipartisan majority, passing 87-7.


Oklahoma’s two Catholic bishops have issued a statement citing Sacred Scripture and encouraging respect and dignity for every human being. In their joint statement, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City and Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa said the dictates of Scripture “cannot be ignored, or in any way mitigated by human law.”


Most of their joint statement, issued last month, follows:


“Our our thoughts and prayers are with all of our elected representatives as they debate many bills which have not only political and economic, but also moral dimensions. We are grateful for legislative support of measures to protect unborn children and to promote the protection of marriage as a foundational institution in our society. The pending legislation regarding immigration also has a moral dimension.


“Immigration reform is primarily the responsibility of our federal officials. That being said, any reform measures at the state level ought to begin with a commitment to respect the fundamental dignity of every human person, not merely citizens or those who are in our country and state with the proper documentation. We are concerned also that these immigration bills will have the intentional or unintentional effect of instilling fear in an already vulnerable population. . . .


“While the Catholic Church recognizes the right of Governments to protect their sovereign borders, it also recognizes the principle of solidarity and that we are all persons crated by God. We steadfastly believe that, since everyone is created by God, human dignity and human rights are not commodities to be allocated according to nationality.


“The struggle for just immigration laws is complex but necessary. It is our prayer that Congress will enact comprehensive, fair and equitable immigration reform, which will (1) acknowledge our dependence on undocumented workers, (2) provide a living wage and decent working conditions and (3) offer a path to legal status which will bring these undocumented persons out of the shadows, where they are so easily preyed upon by human traffickers and other unscrupulous profiteers. We pray that the decisions of our elected officials will be guided by a search for the common good of all and not on narrow economic or political interests which fail to protect and promote human dignity, family unity and children.


“In short, we want to reiterate that the Catholic Church will always obey the command of Christ who tells us ‘when I was hungry you fed me’ because in the poor we see the face of Christ Himself. We will continue to do this for all of the poor regardless of race, status, religion or creed. We pray that our legislators will both remember and apply this same command in all its deliberations and debates.”


H.B. 1446 is now pending before the state Senate.

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