The plight of immigrants close to the heart of new leader

By Catholic New World
Sunday, November 16, 2014

Participants pray the Our Father as hundreds gathered for a prayer vigil for immigration reform on Oct. 24 at Federal Plaza. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

When Archbishop-designate Blase Cupich was introduced to the Archdiocese of Chicago on Sept. 20, he wasted no time in declaring that one of his priorities would be to advocate for immigration reform.

He said that day, “It’s time for political leaders to put aside their own agendas and to take up this issue, so I want to take this opportunity to urge that again,” Cupich said. “Every day we delay, it is a day too long, and we should move on it today.”

He also spoke about the need for immigration reform in a Sept. 26 press conference in Spokane, saying that everyone would be better served by a system that would allow U.S. authorities to better account for the people living here and give undocumented immigrants the protection that legal status would provide.

Immigration reform “has been held hostage, I think, by too many views that need to examine whether or not the common good is being served,” he said during the press conference.

He noted immigrants are taxpayers and play an important role in the nation’s economy and the Catholic Church.

The urgent need for immigration reform comes as no news to advocates in the archdiocese’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and Immigration Education, which has the twofold mission of offering help and spiritual support to immigrants while educating non-immigrant Catholics about the issue.

Immigration reform is not a new cause for Archbishop Cupich. The Washington State Catholic Conference, of which he was a member, released a statement in September 2013 calling for comprehensive immigration reform, saying in part:

“The vast majority of immigrants come here because they are poor and desperately need work to support their families. But they also come because we need their labor. Washington State ranks in the top 10 among states that rely on undocumented workers for their workforce.

“They harvest our produce and crops. They clean our hotel rooms and serve food in our restaurants. They care for our children, tend our lawns, and take on the manual labor we are unable or unwilling to do for ourselves. But they also are professionals — lawyers, physicians, technicians, priests, Sisters, mechanics, builders — and even soldiers serving our country. Immigrants, both documented and undocumented, are employed in virtually every sector of our economy. …

“Through the eyes of those we pastor, we see first-hand how the lack of comprehensive immigration reform results in unequal enforcement of laws, the break-up of families, and the exploitation of laborers — in abuse at the hands of ruthless smugglers and, tragically, in thousands of deaths in the deserts of the American Southwest during the past two decades.

“It is out of respect for human dignity, a value at the heart of our discipleship in Christ, but also in keeping with the unique soul and character of America, that we urge elected officials and all citizens to work to end this totally preventable human suffering.”

Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusabio Elizondo, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops committee on migration, is also a member of the Washington State Catholic Conference.

In April 2014, Archbishop Cupich turned his column in the Inland Register, the news magazine of the Diocese of Spokane, over to the homily preached by Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston on the U.S.-Mexico border at Nogales, Arizona.

In his introduction to the homily, Archbishop Cupich wrote, “I share it with you in the hope that it will provide inspiration so that we all work for this much-needed reform by our elected officials.”


  • immigration reform
  • cardinal blase j. cupich

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