The immigration conundrum in one Southern state


No one should be surprised. Mississippi’s two Catholic bishops, Joseph R. Kopacz of Jackson and Louis F. Kihneman III of Biloxi have joined the state’s Episcopal, Lutheran and United Methodist leaders in condemning recent actions by federal authorities in the mass arrest of workers in various food production facilities and their consequent confinement.

The stand taken by these religious figures is hardly new. Officials of many denominations, including innumerable other Catholic figures, consistently have called for humane policies regarding immigrants living in this country who have not yet sought, or have been granted, citizenship.

Fundamentally, all these recent statements and undertakings by figures of responsibility in religion, in not just Mississippi but throughout the country, insist that the flawed legal provisions for immigration and abuses back home are the problem. The people innocently trapped in or affected by these situations are not the problem; they are victims of the problem.

The Mississippi Christian leaders, including Bishops Kopacz and Kihneman, declared that while they come from different religious communities, with different views and traditions regarding religion, together they see Jesus Christ as Son of God and savior, and they are one in the opinion that this basic faith in the Lord impels them to speak for and attend to any human being whose basic dignity or peace in life is at risk.

Several days ago, a news story on National Public Radio featured a Catholic parish in a small Mississippi town significantly struck by the federal raids and arrests.

A parishioner, a youth in the local public high school and coincidentally a model student, is an American-born citizen, as are his siblings. His parents, however, were born in Guatemala and are not citizens. His father was arrested and is now detained in a place unknown to his family.

The local Catholic church is trying to help this family, along with others, who not only are suddenly without the family member who provided for their livelihood, but they also must endure the anguish of not knowing where this family member is or what will be his plight.

Many of the people who have come to the United States recently have fled terrible conditions in their native places. So, what is new? Irish poured into this country, including my own forebears, to escape financial want and tyranny in Ireland. Italians came in droves to America to get away from poverty in Italy. Germans came for the same purpose, in great numbers. The Poles came to escape oppression in Poland.

The Church came to their rescue once they arrived here. Many could not find, or afford, medical care, so the Church built a network of hospitals from Anchorage to Miami, Honolulu to Boston. Public schools scorned and insulted immigrant children, so the Catholic Church built schools, including universities. Bishops and priests confronted political authorities on behalf of the immigrants.

Mississippi’s present-day Catholic bishops started nothing new.

The treatment of immigrants is troubling in so many respects; however, this side of the story especially is outrageous. Law enforcement also has charged many of these food production operations, in effect, with luring undocumented immigrants into working for them. Desperate for ways to make a living, these immigrants fall into this trap.

Then, once “employed,” the immigrants are victimized again, paid a pauper’s wage, with no benefits or safeguards. They do not dare to protest, lest they expose themselves as illegal immigrants. Talk about exploitation.

By the way, the Catholic bishops in Mississippi acted precisely in the way Catholic ecumenism is supposed to. They compromised nothing. They did nothing to dilute Catholicism or to say all religions are alike. They recognized what was common belief among Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans and United Methodists, and then moved to use this common belief as the reason to think, live and act as Jesus thought, lived and acted.

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.


Catholic News & Perspective

Provides information on the Church, the nation and the world from OSV, America's most popular and trusted national Catholic news source


Could a proper implementation of synodality help save the Church?

Wednesday, September 18, 2019
By: Adam A.J. DeVille Recently, doctors have puzzled over cases of certain Catholics breaking out in hives whenever the words “synod”... Read More

Why is Catholicism vibrant in Africa but not in the U.S.?

Monday, September 16, 2019
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion I feel safe in making this statement. Not many American Catholics will be utterly fascinated by Pope Francis’... Read More

Opening the Word: We’re called to seek with the urgency of God

Friday, September 13, 2019
By: Timothy P. O'Malley Imagine that you’re on a trip abroad. You arrive at the airport and reach into your bag for your passport, knowing... Read More

Who was Venerable Henriette Delille?

Wednesday, September 11, 2019
By: Brian Fraga The last line in Venerable Henriette Delille’s obituary from 1862 sums up her vocation. Henriette Delille, the obituary... Read More

Why I have hope for young priests

Monday, September 9, 2019
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion A Catholic asked me if seminaries currently vet candidates for the priesthood so that clergy sex abuse will not be a... Read More

Opening the Word: The cost of dispossession

Friday, September 6, 2019
By: Timothy P. O'Malley In the canon of the New Testament, Philemon is strange. It is short, written directly to a prominent Christian whose name... Read More

Symposium calls for renewal of Catholic family life

Wednesday, September 4, 2019
By: Dr. Greg Popcak This past July, more than 40 internationally recognized social scientists, theologians and pastoral ministry professionals... Read More

When is silence not golden?

Monday, September 2, 2019
By: Teresa Tomeo We all can use more silence in our lives. We live in a culture bombarded by all kinds of noise and distractions. I should know. My... Read More

Opening the Word: Come to the misfit banquet

Friday, August 30, 2019
By: Timothy P. O'Malley If you’re going to a party, with the right people, then you want to make sure that you fit in. You want to be able to... Read More

Priest starts a Twitter group to break the chains to pornography

Wednesday, August 28, 2019
By: Brian Fraga Not too long after he was ordained on June 1, Father Cassidy Stinson was told by an older priest that if he sees a young person... Read More

Online Giving

Online Giving

Secure and Convenient Donate now!