In the statement the bishops recall the Gospel story in which a lawyer asked Jesus “Who is my neighbor?” In response Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, who recognized the neighbor in distress while others ignored him. Even those lacking legal status in our country merit our compassionate response, according to the bishops.
The bishops express concern that pending legislation could hinder humanitarian assistance offered by the Catholic Church and other churches to immigrants. Several pending bills would require social services agencies operated by churches but receiving government funds to screen all of their clients to ensure only those with legal status are served by the agency. Such restrictions would work a tremendous hardship on church social services agencies, which generally serve all applicants for assistance from either other government or other sources of funds.
Other bills propose to penalize businesses that unknowingly hire illegal immigrants. There are also bills that direct local law enforcement to enforce national immigration policies as part of their duties. The bishops indicate that this may discourage immigrants from reporting crimes thereby undermining public safety for all.
Several bills require officials at Missouri’s public colleges and universities to certify to legislative appropriations committees that they have not knowingly admitted students unlawfully present in the country. Instead of penalizing these students, the bishops urge that they be allowed to attend Missouri’s public colleges and universities while they seek to obtain permanent legal status. The bishops note that these children have been brought into the country by their parents and the state should not turn its back on them because they lack legal status through no fault of their own.
The bishops call on public officials to consider scriptural values, including openness to immigrants and newcomers to the country, in seeking to further the common good of all people.
To view the bishops statement click here. (PDF File)