(Page 2) Our diocese includes Newton County in its northwest corner, just south of Lake County, Indiana. Some weeks ago, I learned that a for-profit company may be looking there to build an 800-bed detention center to hold people for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). As reported in the Post- Tribune on Aug. 11, there was a community meeting about this possibility, and some of our laity and clergy attended. At this writing, facts are in short supply and county officials say there is no plan for such a center at this time.
How does this involve this bishop? Catholic people contacted me because there is a fear factor among many people living and working in our state. We worship alongside people who are directly affected by the separation of parents from children, by deportations, by the uncertainty among people who have lived in the United States from the time they learned to talk and who know no other country.
By the way, being in the United States without papers is not itself a crime. It is a federal administrative concern. There is no doubt that some undocumented people commit actual crimes and should be detained and, if found guilty, imprisoned or deported. But it seems that a large detention system may be just one symptom of unreformed and out-of-date immigration laws. And so the passage of time and legislative indecision have backed many people into a corner with few ways to regularize their presence in the United States.
While a large percentage of people lacking papers are Hispanic, they are not the whole story. There are people from every continent who are caught here in the same difficulties.
The immigration challenges facing governments are pretty much global. If the past 100 years are any indication, there will be no simple solutions. And those who promote com- promises, a fact of any legislative progress, means that everyone will get something they don’t want in addition to things that they do. Doing nothing, or relegating responsibility solely to the executive or judicial branches, will not produce sustainable and just situations.
So I write to ask you to keep a few things in mind. The first is that U.S. bishops do not promote open borders, yet we are accused of that. A workable and enforceable policy for refugees and immigrants is always going to be necessary.
The second is that, in a representative republic like ours, we each bear some responsibility for the actions of our government. We should not abdicate the freedom that allows us, man- dates us, to be interested. And so the immigration situation belongs to us all insofar as we can be better informed both about the needs of those coming to our country and also the responsibilities of governmental agencies. Said another way, it is about the people coming here and about the people we empower to protect us. This has been the tough part, to look at how current history is affecting all these people, their dignity, safety and well-being. So this is not an either-or situation, nor a take-sides situation. But right now, as we look only at the huge expense of for-profit general detention centers, I am leaning away from them as a remedy.
The third thing we might think about is this, and I can speak for myself. I do not shed my U.S. citizen- ship when I walk into a church, and I do not shed my Catholic Christian self (my immortal soul!) when I walk out of one into the community where I live and work. So I cannot close my eyes to challenges that face us, Catholic or not. And I respect others who, with eyes open, can disagree about the best way forward; as long as we also try to see with our hearts the real men, women and children who are affected by our action or inaction.
Were the solutions simply about justice, they might offer a clear path. Were the solutions only about mercy, then wise heads could ease the way. But faithful people, friends of Jesus, know that we are called to apply both justice and mercy and other virtues as well. These are not opposites, but complements that should serve everyone, living and breathing people who are more than statistics. It is worth our discomfort to struggle to establish humane responses to difficulties that transcend national boundaries.
August 23, 2018 | The Catholic Moment | Link to Story