A committee of the General Assembly of North Carolina is studying the state’s role in immigration policy. On Wednesday, March 28, the committee held a hearing in Raleigh seeking input.  Monsignor David Brockman, Vicar General of the Diocese of Raleigh, delivered a statement on behalf of Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Raleigh and Bishop Peter Jugis of the Diocese of Charlotte.  Numerous other faith leaders and representatives of organizations on different sides of the political spectrum also spoke out.

Perhaps due to these testimonies, the House Committee has decided to hold off of implanting any dramatic changes in immigration policy, pending the results of the rulings on Arizon’s controversial immigration laws.

Statement of the North Carolina Catholic Bishops on Immigration

Good afternoon. I am Monsignor Brockman, Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh. I come before the Committee today on behalf of Bishop Michael Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh, and Bishop Peter Jugis, Bishop of Charlotte, who shepherd approximately one-million Catholics throughout the State of North Carolina.

I extend my gratitude to the Committee for the opportunity to address this important issue of human dignity that has generated such considerable debate throughout our country, including here in the State of North Carolina.

While others may address the economic impact of immigration in our state, I wish to present our Catholic social teaching on the formation of a just immigration policy. This teaching is twofold: first, we support the role of the federal government to regulate migration and to defend its borders and laws; and secondly, as Catholics, we advocate for the recognition that immigrants, as members of God’s human family, are deserving of and must be granted the appropriate dignity as our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

The Catholic Church recognizes and upholds this great dignity, not only in each human person, but also of the entire human family as the basic social unit of society from the very foundation of creation. The Bible clearly demonstrates that this God given dignity is given to refugees, migrants, and to all those who are immigrants. Jesus himself was a refugee as a Child and an itinerant during His public ministry. He taught us to welcome the stranger (Matthew 25:35) and to realize that in welcoming the stranger, we are welcoming Christ Himself.

It is clear that the immigration process is in dire need of reform. Without the needed comprehensive reform on the federal level, states throughout our great nation have attempted to address the issue legislatively on a local basis. In 2007, the Catholic Bishops of the United States proposed five principles to be considered in drafting any immigration legislation that is just, respectful of human dignity and that of the human family. Should the General Assembly choose to introduce legislation with regard to immigration policy, we believe that the guidelines, proposed by the Catholic Bishops of our county, provide the necessary foundation to formulate sound and just legislation.

In addition to this written text of my remarks, I respectfully submit to the Committee, these five principles in greater detail, which I will now briefly summarize.

The first principle, people have a human right to work and to support their family in dignity and safety of their homeland. Second, when work in their homeland is not possible due to economic hardships, people have a right to migrate to other countries to work and support their family. The third principle, countries have a 2 right to protect their borders and also have the higher obligation to provide legal avenues for people to enter their country legally. Fourth, refuge must be provided to those who are fleeing their homeland due to political oppression. And the fifth principle, all persons, including undocumented workers, have a right to basic human dignity and should not be treated in an inhumane way by anyone.

As Catholics, we believe that these five principles, based in the biblical tradition, are reasonable and we respectfully propose them to the Committee as a guide should the General Assembly consider new immigration legislation for our State.

In a statement to Catholics in the Diocese of Raleigh, Bishop Burbidge wrote, “We must find the moral way to create policy and laws so we can both respond to the labor needs of the market as well as to support the right of people to immigrate, and to always safeguard the human dignity of every person. We also need to do this in a way that does not condone unlawful entry or circumvent our laws.”

Both Bishop Burbidge and Bishop Jugis acknowledge that there are many emotions which are often ignited by the immigration debate, but together, they call on “all people of goodwill to continue to debate in the spirit of mutual respect, ever mindful that together we must work for peace and protect the dignity of each and every person.”

Once again, on behalf of Bishop Burbidge and Bishop Jugis and the one million Catholics in our State, I express my gratitude to the Committee for this opportunity to present our Catholic teaching regarding this important moral issue of immigration. As members of the human family, each deserve and must be granted, the dignity that not only supports and fosters the common good of our society, but reflects the reality that we are all fundamentally brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Thank you.

Rev. Msgr. David D. Brockman, Vicar General, Catholic Diocese of Raleigh

March 28, 2012

The two page statement is available by clicking here:  http://catholicvoicenc.org/Immigration-NCHouse3-28-12.  Copies are also available in the Stewardship Center of the parish, next to the main Sanctuary.