Why Does the Catholic Church Support Immigrants?

Let’s talk about what Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Allentown does, and what it doesn’t do.

The dedicated staff and volunteers of Catholic Charities help people in the five counties of our Diocese when they are hungry, when they need to get back on their feet after a family crisis, when they are thinking about getting an abortion, and when they are in danger of becoming homeless. It’s one of the most important social service agencies in our region.

Here's what Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Allentown does not do: It does not encourage illegal immigration.

There’s a controversy about a Catholic Charities agency in Texas providing humanitarian aid to people who have crossed the border from Mexico. Some have alleged that this work contributes to the problem of illegal immigration.

Catholic Charities officials in Texas -- along with the Bishops of Texas – point out that the food, medicine, showers, and other care they give are in line “with the dignity we believe should be afforded to every person.”

It’s hard to know all the facts about the situation based simply on what TV commentators are saying, or on what people are posting on social media.

I do think it’s important to keep a few things in mind, however, when thinking about why the Catholic Church supports immigrants:

  • We are a Church of immigrants. Few among us would be here today if our parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents did not migrate to this country to make a better life.
  • The policy of the American Church on immigration, as stated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, can be summarized this way: We urgently need immigration reform, and a country has a right to regulate its borders, but people also have a fundamental right to migrate to preserve their lives and families.
  • The American Church also supports creating a pathway to citizenship for those undocumented immigrants who are living in this country.
  • We are called by Christ to help those in need. “When people are hungry, we feed them,” the Church’s statement says. “When they come to our door cold, we clothe them.” It’s what we Catholics do.

We get a lot of phone calls, emails, and letters here at the diocesan offices about immigration. Some say Catholic Charities here in the Diocese is part of the illegal immigration problem. That’s not the case, and here’s why.

Each Catholic Charities agency in the country is separate and independently funded. At Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Allentown, immigrant aid programs are designed to help only people in Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton, and Schuylkill counties, and only people who are recognized by the government as having legal immigration status, Executive Director Rob Nicolella tells me.

Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Allentown is answering Christ’s call to compassionately help those in need. It spends all of its effort and its funds right here in our communities. It provides no funding or staff time on immigration at the Texas border.

Paul Wirth is the Communications Director of the Diocese of Allentown. He can be reached at pwirth@allentowndiocese.org


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