An Illegitimate Law?

Hi Fr. Bloom,

I found your website from Mark Shea's blog. Yesterday in my diocesan paper there was an article about immigration. After reading it I was more than a bit upset. Today I read your statements about it as well. One thing that I see consistently through many statements on immigration is that there is a blurring of illegal immigration and legal immigration. Seeing a lack of distinction in the many statements I've read, I conclude that the church sees no difference between the two. I'm dismayed that when the term illegal immigrant is used, the illegal part is overlooked. If the law that makes an illegal immigrant "illegal" is an illegitimate law, could you share with me why that is? If the law is legitimate, then why not honor this law?

The implication that seems to be made is that anyone who has a problem with illegal immigration hates all immigrants. This is disingenuous.

Please help clear up my cunundrum.



Dear Mark,

I wish I could clear up this issue. For the reasons you mention, it vexs me and I know it bothers people in my parish - both those with and without legal documents.

A starting point for us as Catholics has to include the Catechism. You have probably read paragraph 2241:

The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him. Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.

Those who are here illegally often have a guilty conscience about it - especially since often it involves them in a number of falsehoods. If they had some kind of decent option in Mexico (or whatever country) they probably would have stayed with their family and friends. Many of the members of my congregation are single men in their twenties whose parents encouraged them to emigrate. Much of their income goes back home. When they marry, it is often a source of conflict trying to decide how much to send to each set of parents.

Regarding the question of legality, a comparison is possible with laws we ordinary citizens habitually violate. The freeway here has signs which say "speed limit 60." Along with most other drivers I cruise along at 65 even though I know it is technically illegal. The cops never stop us.

We have several million people who are here illegally. They are not hiding. They know their presence is tolerated - and in fact quite necessary to our economy. It is not a good situation to have a law which is not enforced. However, enforcing it would cause chaos. It would be much better if our laws were more realistic. For decades the U.S. Bishops have been lobbying for better laws.

I should mention a very large number (I don't know what percentage) of "illegal" immigrants are actually involved in some kind of process to get their status legalized. No one wants to be here illegally. Like I mentioned on my website, it is a source of stress, especially for young moms worried about their husbands or themselves being deported.

Those are my thoughts, Mark. I have no particular expertise in this area, just a pastor trying to care for the souls in my parish. But I am glad you asked because it did give me occasion to put some thoughts into writing.

God bless. Prayers. Please remember me and my flock.

Fr. Phil Bloom


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