Many times Catholics of good faith and good will, starting with the same understanding of their moral obligations, may legitimately arrive at very different conclusions and advocate divergent alternative solutions to given social concerns. Catholics for the Common Good avoids getting involved in these kinds of issues, since they offer no possibility for united Catholic action.
~ John Paul II
Message for World Migration Day, 2000
Immigration is an area in which Catholics may legitimately embrace various solutions to the problem. Although the Church advocates no definitive course of action, there are principles that are foundational for deciding what course of action to adopt. It is important to become familiar with these principles in order to participate in the public debate on this hotly debated issue.
I. Persons have the right to find opportunities in their homeland.
All persons have the right to find in their own countries the economic, political, and social opportunities to live in dignity and achieve a full life through the use of their God-given gifts. In this context, work that provides a just, living wage is a basic human need.
II. 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 persons cannot find employment in their country of origin to support themselves and their families, they have a right to find work elsewhere in order to survive. Sovereign nations should provide ways to accommodate this right.
III. Sovereign nations have the right to control their borders.
The Church recognizes the right of sovereign nations to control their territories but rejects such control when it is exerted merely for the purpose of acquiring additional wealth. More powerful economic nations, which have the ability to protect and feed their residents, have a stronger obligation to accommodate migration flows.
IV. 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.
V. The human dignity and human rights of undocumented migrants should be respected.
Regardless of their legal status, migrants, like all persons, possess inherent human dignity that should be respected. Often they are subject to punitive laws and harsh treatment from enforcement officers from both receiving and transit countries. Government policies that respect the basic human rights of the undocumented are necessary.