October 29, 2017
Archbishop Paul S. Coakley
Our nation has grappled with the difficult issue of immigration for hundreds of years, struggling to manage the sometimes rapid change in demographics. Throughout the decades, we have wrestled with a profound question: How do we protect our citizens and remain a nation of laws while respecting the inherent dignity of each human person?
U.S. Catholic bishops have long supported comprehensive measures in Congress that take into consideration the significant nuances of immigration policy, and offer a balance of mercy and compassion with the rule of law.
In particular, we must recognize and proclaim the need to welcome young people: “Whoever welcomes one of these children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me” (Mark 9:37).
With the end approaching of an order that protects children from deportation (DACA), it is imperative we find a legislative solution that strikes that proper balance.
U.S. Sen. James Lankford’s newly-introduced SUCCEED Act offers us an opportunity for a critical, initial solution that addresses the needs of these children while our nation’s leaders work to confront the many components of federal immigration law in need of repair.
The SUCCEED Act takes into account the human element involved with nearly one million youth facing separation from their families and forced removal from the only country many have ever known.
The bill encourages students under age 16 and those young adults striving to become productive members of society to continue their participation in and contribution to our schools, businesses, families and communities as they seek to reach the fullness of their God-given potential.
The SUCCEED Act offers youth reprieve from the threat of deportation in exchange for time spent in school, gainful employment or military service. The bill does not offer a “path to citizenship” for family members.
We strongly urge Congress to act and immediately find a legislative answer to this pressing need. We pledge our support to find an expeditious means of protection for DACA youth.
As people of faith, we say to DACA youth – regardless of your immigration status – you are children of God and our brothers and sisters.
This is no easy challenge, but we must accept it nonetheless.
In the absence of comprehensive reform, many states and localities are taking the responsibility of enforcing immigration law into their own hands. This has led to abuses and injustices for many U.S. families and immigrant communities.
Congress and the president have a responsibility to come together to enact reform that corrects this humanitarian problem, respects the dignity and hard work of our immigrant brothers and sisters, and reflects America’s proud history as a hospitable society and a welcoming culture.
At the heart of the issue is the very identity of the United States for which our founding fathers pledged their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor.” Our Declaration of Independence made clear to the world that a new conception of freedom was to be realized, namely that rights from God were inalienably given.
It is with respect to those rights and in recognition of the inherent dignity of each person that the Catholic Church stands with resolve in defense of our common humanity and in the hope that each of us may avail ourselves of the blessings of God.
The Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley
Archbishop of Oklahoma City
The Most Rev. David A. Konderla
Bishop of Tulsa