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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

dolanOne of the most vivid memories of my childhood was the arrival of four religious sisters from Ireland who were coming to my hometown of Ballwin, Mo., to begin teaching in the brand new grammar school of Holy Infant Parish.

I was only 7 years old, but I will never forget the extraordinary lengths our entire community went to in order to make these newcomers, these strangers, these immigrants, feel welcome and at home.

That imperative to welcome the stranger, and to treat them with respect, is fundamental to the ideals upon which our country was founded.

The Statue of Liberty is more than a tourist attraction. It is an affirmation of who we are as a nation, a solemn reminder of what has always made our country great: the willingness to open our nation’s doors to those seeking a better life, a chance to participate in the American Dream.

Welcoming the stranger is also an intrinsic part of who we are as people of faith. It’s right there in the Bible. In Leviticus, for instance, Moses told the people of Israel, and us, their spiritual descendants, that “You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you.”

And in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us very bluntly that we will be judged on how well we feed the hungry, clothe the naked and welcome the stranger, because “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for Me.” When we stand before Him at judgment, He told us He would ask us, “When I was a stranger, (i.e., an immigrant) did you welcome Me?”

That is the only motive we pastors have in our advocacy for the immigrant. To suggest that we are doing it to increase our numbers or revenue is both preposterous and rude.

It’s personal for us, too, isn’t it?

We Catholics – and Jews, Muslims, and other Christians, and, for that matter, all citizens except Native-Americans – have deep in our memories our parents and grandparents who came here as immigrants.

Every Sunday, Mass is celebrated in the Archdiocese of New York in 32 different languages, as we continue to welcome immigrants from all over the world. We see parades on Fifth Avenue celebrating Italians, Hispanics and Poles, in addition to parades in honor of Irish, Germans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and many others.

Yes, countries have both a right and a duty to see to it that there are secure borders and a sensible immigration policy. Reasonable people can have an honest debate about the best way to accomplish this. With DACA, however, we’re dealing with people who arrived here as children and are now our neighbors, co-workers, fellow parishioners and friends. This is their home. They salute our flag and love our country.

Congress must now act to make certain that the “Dreamers” have that same opportunity to demonstrate that they too want and deserve the chance to become the full citizens in the land that they love.

This is why I will continue to stand up for the “Dreamers” and advocate for a fair, measured, American immigration policy. My only motive in this is that I believe in the Bible and in America.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan leads the Archdiocese of New York and is past president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.