Thursday, May 6, 2010

John T. Ford on the ecumenical dimensions of immigration ministry

In light of renewed attention to the ethics of United States immigration policy in the wake of the signing into law of Arizona SB 1070 on April 23, I thought it appropriate to call attention to an article in the January 2010 issue of Ecumenical Trends highlighted in a previous post. John T. Ford, CSC, Professor of Theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., approaches the current situation as an opportunity for ecumenical cooperation and convergence in his article "Immigration Ministry: An Ecumenical Opportunity?", which appears on pages 10-14 of the issue, currently available online in PDF as a sample issue. Here's an excerpt to pique your interest:

The current strategy of deporting undocumented immigrants is not only minimally successful, it is also ethically questionable. With the exception of undocumented immigrants who commit crimes – and one must acknowledge the presence of criminals among the immigrant population – undocumented immigrants usually come to the United States to find employment, not to commit crime. Most undocumented immigrants are hard-working, law-abiding workers; their unique crime is their unauthorized entry into the United States. However, because of their illegal entry, the undocumented are sometimes unjustly lumped together with people who are guilty of serious crimes.

The failure to differentiate between undocumented immigrants and criminal immigrants does not recognize that most undocumented immigrants have not come for criminal purposes, but in order to support themselves and their families. Why is it necessary to deport undocumented immigrants who are working hard to support themselves and their families? Why is it necessary to break up families by deporting undocumented parents and leaving their children without support – children who were born in the United States and so are U.S. citizens?

While hoping and praying for a governmental solution – and judging from recent experience the wait may be long – people need to recognize that the United States is still a land of immigrants – as it has been since colonial times. And like the millions of immigrants in the past, most recent immigrants have come to stay. For the government, the problem is to find a just, humane way of dealing with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in the United States. For churches, the challenge is to find ways of ministering to these immigrants.

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