Pastoral Letter by Father Ryan Jimenez

November 26, 2011

“You must befriend the alien for you were once aliens yourselves.” Deuteronomy 10:19

The Catholic Church is a leading force behind immigration reform in the United States. Although, not a member of the Catholic faith, I have had the privilege of working with Catholic clergy and Church members in Rota, Tinian, and Saipan and presently in Florida. The Catholic Church promotes dignity, respect and justice for the foreign workers and all people.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration leads the effort in pressing the President and the U.S. Congress to work together to enact comprehensive immigration reform legislation. In May 2011 after President Obama delivered a speech on immigration reform in El Paso, Texas, Archbishop Gomez said, “Congress and the President have a responsibility to come together to enact reform that corrects this humanitarian problem, respects the dignity and hard work of our immigrant brothers and sisters, and reflects America’s proud history as a hospitable society and a welcoming culture.”

On August 3, 2011 in Denver, Colorado Archbishop Gomez made these remarks:
I believe comprehensive immigration reform offers us a special moment as a nation — and as a Church. As immigrants have in every generation, this new generation of immigrants promises to make us a stronger, more virtuous and prosperous America.

As I said, the other day, immigration is not a problem but an opportunity!
The foreign workers in the CNMI can stand proud today knowing that their efforts helped to make a stronger, more virtuous and prosperous CNMI.

Today several of my friends from the CNMI sent me an inspirational pastoral letter by Father Ryan P. Jimenez. I was told that it was read in all of the Catholic Churches in the islands today. It contains a beautiful message that was delivered on a very significant day, November 27, 2011. On this day the foreign workers' umbrella permits will expire. Some fortunate foreign workers have obtained parole or await CW visas, but most foreign workers will wake up tomorrow and find that they are "out of status."

Father Jimenez quoted from Strangers No Longer: together on a Journey for Hope, a pastoral letter issued by the bishops from the United States and Mexico that is a call for immigration reform. The bishops call for a united effort in ending global poverty, the main reason that foreign workers must leave their homelands to seek work. They call for reunification of families, broad-based legalization, restoration of due process, and a temporary worker program that includes:
  • Path to permanent residency which is achievable/verifiable
  • Family unity which allows immediate family members to join worker
  • Job portability which allows workers to change employers
  • Labor protections which apply to U.S. workers
  • Enforcement mechanisms and resources to enforce worker’s rights
  • Wages and benefits which do not undercut domestic workers
  • Mobility between U.S. and homeland and within U.S.
  • Labor-market test to ensure U.S. workers are not harmed
In his message today Father Jimenez said, in part:
"Completing the immigration shift from local to federal immigration standards has certainly brought much attention, discussion, and action. There are those that have downsized, reduced staff, or have discontinued services altogether. Individuals who employed non resident workers in their homes and farms are also adjusting to the new rules. The Diocese itself has had to review the non-resident status of those assisting with its mission, including members of the clergy and the religious. 
The plight of those who hold non-resident status has in and of itself been a contentious issue. These individuals were faced with concerns like whether or not they had secured employers, whether or not they qualified for approved status, whether or not they had an option to stay or return to their points of origin, whether or not their dependents qualified them for special consideration, and many other uncertainties. As November 27, 2011 approached, there were those who left the islands to return home or left elsewhere to seek gainful employment, those who remained after securing approved status, and those who did not secure approved status but remained hopeful for a perceived outcome. In any event, November 27, 201 1 is now here and changes are imminent. 
Through this pastoral letter, I, together with the clergy of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa, are one in prayer with the many non-residents and residents alike who are affected with this reality. St. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, says that we are all members of the one body of Christ and "when one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it." (1 Corinthians 12:26) Our parishes throughout the Diocese are comprised of parishioners from various ethnic backgrounds. We are a Church of diverse backgrounds, cultures and traditions. We speak different languages, maintain different customs, and observe different family practices. These are all reflections of the richness of God's inmost being, One God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This unity in diversity as reflected in the Trinitarian God is a model for all the faithful. 
With this, I would like to point out pertinent social teachings of the Catholic Church as our guide in dealing with current events such as immigration. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, through its pastoral letter Strangers No Longer, emphasized five guiding principles of Catholic social teaching on immigration:
(1) all people have a right to find opportunity in their homeland;
(2) all people have a right to migrate in order to support themselves and their families;
(3) nations have the right to control their borders;
(4) refugees and asylum seekers should be protected by the international community; and
(5) all immigrants possess inherent human dignity, which should be respected in all cases. 
While the five points above deserve a full explanation, I only wish to emphasize the last point in upholding the dignity of the human person. At the core of this basic teaching is a biblical testimony that every person is created in the image and likeness of God. "God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:27). With this as our basis for relating with one another, there should be no room for hatred with our fellow human being. In recognizing the rights of every individual and in upholding the laws, we should try our best to instill basic respect with one another. This call for respect, practice of charity and solidarity is grounded in Sacred Scriptures. From God's command to the Israelites to "treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt" (Leviticus 19:34), to Christ's pronouncement that his followers will be judged by how well they welcome the stranger (Matthew 25:35), to St. Paul's claim that "you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens and members of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19), we, likewise should embrace members of our community with love and respect. After all, when people of different origins are welcomed, God is revealed: "I was a stranger and you welcomed me." (Matthew 25:35)
Read the pastoral letter:


the teacher said...

This letter raises many interesting economic topics but it would take days to comment on so many complicated issues. I do agree "The bishops call for a united effort in ending global poverty, the main reason that foreign workers must leave their homelands to seek work", but ending global poverty while the most challenged nations are overpopulating at such an alarming rate will require some tough strategies to combat.

Do you think the church takes such a proactive role in immigration matters of other nations? He seems to favor a complete open door policy but the US is no longer the industrial king. In light of that, should emerging markets welcome workers under US labor protections, benifits, and not expect to crush wages and labor unions for current citizens. I agree with a couple of the Bishops points, but with all due respect, much of this letter lacks economic logic and feasibility

Wendy Doromal said...


I am so sorry. I just noticed I had the incorrect link to the pastoral letter, Strangers No Longer. That is the correct link. It is actually more of a small book than a letter. Of course at the foundation of a solution to the immigration problems lie repairing the economies in all countries so the people do not have to seek work abroad. Anything is possible. It takes heart, determination and unity from all parties. Read the entire report.

Anonymous said...

The father is saying really true words as a human being.all human has right to change them life.hate will be death one is always remain in this whole universe.The super power is waiting for right time to change whole world.He/she/it?? has a big hope on human being that they will united to run this universe but now he/she/it??? tired with human bad nature he never think about that.human being are creating problems to destroy entire u think superpower let you do this?? never before that power will destroy all human being/whole universe to change and will be soon.amen

the teacher said...

Perhaps our children may see a world without walls, where humans can eradicate nationalism, turn religious fanaticism into tolerance, make real progress to protect and restore our environment, and employ a mechanism to more equally distribute the earth diminishing resources in a growing population, but we will not.

America must strictly control immigration or the societal impact of allowing the poor to invade would be catastrophic. The US needs reform, but we should model it after successful nations in a continuous improvement process and then strictly enforce the law. Impoverished nations must learn to control population before they will ever experience financial success.

So for the US to open its doors when other countries don’t is not intelligent strategy for our children. China charges a family of four(Americans as other citizens are much cheap) 900. for a vacation visa and England restricts investor visas to 1k annually with a minimum investment requirement of five million Sterling, and they both enforce.

What are America’s resources and what are the goals? We have a geographic trade advantage and the protection of two oceans, we have the most well equipped and experienced army the world has ever seen, despite government financial problems the wealth of US citizens dwarfs every competitive nation, America has an undefended neighbor to the north with much natural and mineral wealth, and a southern neighbor with an abundant supply of cheap labor. So the US will be making the trade/immigration rules in North America until further notice.

Competitive nations are conspiring to ditch our currency. When that happens, and I can assure you it will soon, the US must revisit some hard line trading practices and strategies to stay on top.

Wendy Doromal said...

Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the heart of America.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Gregory Baka said...

Thank you, Pale Ryan!

“Without justice, what else is the state but a great band of robbers?”

St. Augustine (via Benedict XVI)