From the Bishop's press release at the MCC website:
January 28, 2008, JEFFERSON CITY, MO – The Missouri Catholic bishops issued a statement today delivered to Governor Matt Blunt and state legislators calling for an end to rhetoric in which political candidates vie to see who can be tougher on illegal immigrants. The statement urges a more positive discussion of immigrant-related concerns and how our state might best address these issues.
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.
While respecting national sovereignty, the bishops stated “that each person has a basic human right to migrate when faced with circumstances such as persecution, drought, famine or pervasive poverty.” Poverty in Mexico and Central America is so severe, the bishops note, that many people live on one dollar a day or less. Immigrants who cannot support themselves or their families in their home countries often come to find work and to send money back home to their families. The bishops asked “Would we, in their shoes, not do the same?”
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)