On April 5, thousands of protesters gathered outside government offices and detention facilities across the U.S. to demonstrate their support for undocumented immigrants and immigration reform. Many of the protesters who rallied were Hispanic, which indirectly sheds light on how one of the most powerful groups in the world – the Catholic Church – views the issue, and the importance of passing new immigration laws in the U.S.
The Catholic Church and immigration reform
Of the 70 million Catholics living in America, over 33 percent are Hispanic, and that number is expected to rise. More than 66 percent of the 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide live in countries outside of the West. Many people who are looking to immigrate to the U.S. come from countries with rapidly growing Catholic populations, like sub-Saharan Africa and certain regions of Asia. The issue of immigration reform hits close to home for Catholic leaders who are supposed to offer spiritual inspiration to people involved in what is considered to be very political circumstances. In order to reconcile the two opposing worlds, the Church’s leadership sees immigration reform as a means to enforce some of its universal teachings, namely the sacredness of human life.
Realities of immigration law enforcement
Since the initial flurry of immigration reform promises during the early 2000s and the current Obama administration, there have been many instances where undocumented immigrants, protestors and other immigration advocates were treated unfairly, both physically and emotionally. Detained hunger strikers in Washington state and Texas have complained about unhealthy living conditions and very poor quality food at the detainment facilities. According to Cardinal Sean O’Malley, an outspoken Catholic advocate of immigration reform, he and his colleagues hear about the experiences of many undocumented citizens trying to enter the country for the sake of their families every day. Many of those stories include aggressive behavior of U.S. Border Patrol agents toward detainees and detention sentences that do not match the severity of the crime. However, hope still exists. President Obama has promised to increase amnesty for many undocumented immigrants if legislative reform stalls.