America was built on the idea of new people coming together in a new place to take on new challenges. We are blessed to live in this country, and for the most part, many of us come from immigrant families. In fact, genealogy companies promote DNA testing kits in order for us to identify the various countries of our ancestors. At the same time, the vast majority of children in this country are able to identify the basic principles that make this nation great ̶ freedom, human rights, dignity, liberty, opportunity, etc. – and understand the history that allowed these virtues to be enshrined as basic human rights. Just as importantly, they are able to identify the very statue that proclaims, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." My parents grew up in a neighborhood of immigrants. These were not realities to be feared, but to be celebrated.
Just last year, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, blessed the cross that stands between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez along the US-Mexico border, a symbol of Jesus Christ who, along with the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, made up the Holy Family. At one point, they were refugees. The Holy Family fled to escape the persecution of King Herod and sought safety in Egypt. Someone had to have welcomed them; someone had to have taken them in.
At a meeting in February, bishops on both sides of the US-Mexico border issued a statement about the current crisis concerning immigrants and refugees. They noted the fact that “immigration is a global phenomenon arising from economic and social conditions of poverty and insecurity. It directly displaces entire populations causing families to feel that migration is the only way to survive.”
We recognize that every country has a responsibility to protect its borders. Even more fundamental than this, every country has a fundamental responsibility to uphold the human dignity of every person. It seems to me that fear is being experienced on both sides of the immigration issue: on the one side, people in fear of attack or terrorism; on the other, immigrant families in fear of being torn apart. Decisions made in the grip of fear seldom reflect our best thinking and do not allow for us to all thrive together and find the best way forward together.
At the time of the announcement of my coming to Dallas, I said to the immigrant community that the Catholic Church is in solidarity with you. Now, as your bishop, I am concerned for the members of our local immigrant community. I recognize that many of you live in fear and uncertainty, filled with anxiety and doubt, and terribly concerned about loved ones and the unity of your families. The Catholic Church is a mother to all her children, and as a mother loves her children, she will always seek to protect and provide for her children.
In response to recent developments, I am forming an Immigration Task Force to assist the Diocese of Dallas in responding to the needs of the immigrant community. This task force will build on the good work that has already taken place on the part of Catholic Charities of Dallas and in various parishes around the diocese. This task force will help the diocese address the pastoral, legal, and general needs of those facing the uncertainty of today’s immigration issues in the United States and will report back to the Diocesan Senior Staff.
The Catholic Church will continue to uphold the human dignity that is given to all people by God. We recognize and welcome everyone as our brothers and sisters. We know that fractured families will only lead to a fractured society. We will work tirelessly with government officials as they address immigration reform in this country. Through it all, the Church stands ready to "welcome the stranger" as we would welcome Christ himself. As one nation under God, it is my hope that we will continue to pray for all people and treat all human beings with the dignity and respect they deserve as children of God.