Catholic Social Teaching on Migration

Apr 9th, 2016

Caring for God’s Creation & the Poor

“Migrants are our brothers and sisters in search of a better life, far away from poverty, hunger, exploitation and the unjust distribution of the planet’s resources which are meant to be equitably shared by all. Don’t we all want a better, more decent and prosperous life to share with our loved ones?” ~Pope Francis

“Catholic Social Teaching on migration is extensive, always keeping the focus on migrants and refugees as human beings, children of God, deserving of respect and dignity. Too often migrants’ unique faces are lost in generalized ethnic groupings. Their search for food and employment disappears in politicized ‘immigration’ debates, and their physical and emotional suffering is subsumed into ‘human rights violations.’

In their joint document from 2003, ‘Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope,’ the Catholic Bishops of Mexico and the United States identified five areas of Catholic Social Teaching that specifically guide the church’s response on migration issues:

1. Persons have the right to find opportunity in their home land. Work that provides a just living wage is a basic human need. Therefore, each individual has the right to find in their own country the economic, political, and social opportunities to live in dignity and achieve a full life through the use of their God-given gifts.

2. Persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families. ‘The Church recognizes that all the goods of the earth belong to all people.’ When a person cannot find work in their country of origin, they have the right to travel to another country to support themselves and their families. Sovereign nations ought to provide avenues to accommodate this right.

3. Sovereign nations have the right to control their borders, but are obliged to accommodate migrant flows. While the Church recognizes the right of sovereign nations to control their territories, the Church rejects such control when it is purely for the purpose of acquiring additional wealth. Powerful economic nations, with the ability to protect and feed their residents, have a greater obligation to welcome migrants.

4. Refugees and asylum seekers should be afforded protection. ‘Those who flee wars and persecution should be protected by the global community. This requires, at a minimum, that migrants have a right to claim refugee status without incarceration and to have their claims fully considered by a competent authority.’

5. The human dignity and human rights of undocumented migrants should be respected. Migrants are often subjected to punitive laws and harsh treatment from enforcement officers in receiving and transit countries. It is necessary that governments respect the basic human rights of migrants regardless of their documented status.”

Peace & Justice Committee