Catechism of the Catholic Church 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.

Pope St. John Paul II, Address to the Congress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants (9 October 1998)

. . . Migration is a problem whose urgency increases with its complexity. There is a tendency almost everywhere today to close borders and to tighten controls. However, people are talking more than before about migration and in ever more alarming tones, not only because the closing of borders has led to uncontrolled waves of illegal immigrants, with all the risks and uncertainties inherent in this phenomenon, but also because the harsh living conditions which are at the root of this growing migratory pressure show signs of further deterioration. . . . In this context it seems appropriate to stress that it is a basic human right to live in one's own country. However this right becomes effective only if the factors that urge people to emigrate are constantly kept under control. These include, among others, civil conflicts, wars, the system of government, unjust distribution of economic resources, inconsistent agricultural policies, irrational industrialization and rampant corruption. . . . Immigration is a complex question, which concerns not only individuals searching for more secure and dignified living conditions, but also the population of the host countries. . . . Christians are asked to assume their responsibilities in the Church and in society with greater clarity and determination. As citizens of an immigrant country who know the demands of their faith, believers must show that Christ’s Gospel is at the service of the welfare and the freedom of all God’s children.

U.S.C.C.B., Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship 81

The Gospel mandate to "welcome the stranger" requires Catholics to care for and stand with newcomers, authorized and unauthorized, including unaccompanied immigrant children, refugees and asylum-seekers, those unnecessarily detained, and victims of human trafficking. Comprehensive reform is urgently necessary to fix a broken immigration system and should include a broad and fair legalization program with a path to citizenship; a work program with worker protections and just wages; family reunification policies; access to legal protections, which include due process procedures; refuge for those fleeing persecution and violence; and policies to address the root causes of migration. The right and responsibility of nations to control their borders and to maintain the rule of law should be recognized but pursued in a just and humane manner. The detention of immigrants should be used to protect public safety and not for purposes of deterrence or punishment; alternatives to detention, including community-based programs, should be emphasized. As Pope Francis has said, human trafficking is a "crime against humanity" (Address, Dec. 12, 2013, and April 10, 2014) and should be eradicated from the earth. Trafficking victims, most especially children, should receive care and protection, including special consideration for permanent legal status. Additional education and mobilization efforts are needed to address the root causes of human trafficking—poverty, conflict, and the breakdown of judicial process in source countries.

Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Bishops of the U.S., Regions XIV-XV (2012)

I would begin by praising your unremitting efforts, in the best traditions of the Church in America, to respond to the ongoing phenomenon of immigration in your country. The Catholic community in the United States continues, with great generosity, to welcome waves of new immigrants, to provide them with pastoral care and charitable assistance, and to support ways of regularizing their situation, especially with regard to the unification of families. A particular sign of this is the long-standing commitment of the American Bishops to immigration reform. This is clearly a difficult and complex issue from the civil and political, as well as the social and economic, but above all from the human point of view. It is thus of profound concern to the Church, since it involves ensuring the just treatment and the defense of the human dignity of immigrants.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs, Statement on Immigration Reform (August 2013)

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) opposes "enforcement only" immigration policies and supports comprehensive immigration reform. In Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope, the U.S. Catholic Bishops outlined the elements of their proposal for comprehensive immigration reform. These include:

Earned Legalization:

An earned legalization program would allow foreign nationals of good moral character who are living in the United States to apply to adjust their status to obtain lawful permanent residence. Such a program would create an eventual path to citizenship, requiring applicants to complete and pass background checks, pay a fine, and establish eligibility for resident status to participate in the program. Such a program would help stabilize the workforce, promote family unity, and bring a large population "out of the shadows," as members of their communities.

Future Worker Program:

A worker program to permit foreign‐born workers to enter the country safely and legally would help reduce illegal immigration and the loss of life in the American desert. Any program should include workplace protections, living wage levels, safeguards against the displacement of U.S. workers, and family unity.

Family‐based Immigration Reform:

It currently takes years for family members to be reunited through the family‐based legal immigration system. This leads to family breakdown and, in some cases, illegal immigration. Changes in family‐based immigration should be made to increase the number of family visas available and reduce family reunification waiting times.

Restoration of Due Process Rights:

Due process rights taken away by the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) should be restored. For example, the three and ten year bars to reentry should be eliminated.

Addressing Root Causes:

Congress should examine the root causes of migration, such as under‐development and poverty in sending countries, and seek long‐term solutions. The antidote to the problem of illegal immigration is sustainable economic development in sending countries. In an ideal world, migration should be driven by choice, not necessity.


The U.S. Catholic Bishops accept the legitimate role of the U.S. government in intercepting unauthorized migrants who attempt to travel to the United States. The Bishops also believe that by increasing lawful means for migrants to enter, live, and work in the United States, law enforcement will be better able to focus upon those who truly threaten public safety: drug and human traffickers, smugglers, and would‐be terrorists. Any enforcement measures must be targeted, proportional, and humane.