WASHINGTON (August 23, 2006)—"The challenge of immigration today is not just at the borders, but in our labor markets," noted Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, NY, chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Domestic Policy Committee.
In the U.S. bishops' annual Labor Day Statement, Bishop DiMarzio pointed out: "Many immigrants come because they want to live out the values we celebrate this Labor Day—hard work, providing a decent living for one's family, contributing to the community, a life of dignity and opportunity gained through hard work."
Bishop DiMarzio, the grandson of Italian immigrants, emphasized the place of immigrants in U.S. society.
"My convictions are shaped by my own history as a grandson of Italian immigrants, and now a bishop and pastor in Brooklyn, one of the most diverse and vibrant dioceses in our Church," he said.
"I have seen the daily struggles and dreams of immigrants in my diocese and throughout the country," he said. "I understand their desire, shared by my grandparents, to give their children a better life. That is why I believe we must and we can find reasonable and responsible ways to welcome those seeking a new life and opportunity. I believe we can help newcomers without legal status to come out from the shadows and contribute more fully to our communities. When we do this, I believe we can also increase the security of our nation and the vitality of our Church."
Bishop DiMarzio noted that our nation is engaged in a divisive political debate. "Unfortunately, the debate sometimes has not brought out the best in us," he added. "People of good will can and do disagree over how to improve our immigration laws. Regrettably, this disagreement sometimes disintegrates into polarization, partisanship and now paralysis."
Bishop DiMarzio asked that we look at the complex question of immigration from a viewpoint other than our own.
"We all bring our own perspectives, biases, even prejudices to this discussion. I hope as we approach Labor Day, each of us might try to see these difficult questions through the eyes and experiences of someone very different from ourselves: a father in Mexico who cannot feed his family, or a rancher on the border whose land has become a dangerous path for desperate people, threatening their lives and his livelihood."
He addressed the reliance on immigrants as part of the U.S. work force.
"The simple fact is many parts of our nation's economy have become dependent on immigrant workers. Agriculture relies heavily on seasonal workers to pick our crops. Our fruits and vegetables cannot be harvested without the backbreaking work of farmworkers. Immigrant workers are increasingly moving from fields to factories: working in meat and poultry processing plants, and large hog and cattle operations. The poultry industry, increasingly industrialized and offering some of the highest risk jobs in the U.S., has a low-paid workforce that is nearly half immigrant. Our country's hotel and restaurant industries to a great extent rely on foreign born workers; they bus the tables, make the beds and clean up after us. The fact is we have come to depend more and more on international migration to fill our workforce. Without them our economy would have huge gaps," he said.
"Our immigration laws have failed to keep up with the demand for labor, so the need is filled by those who come into the country without legal sanction," he added. "Over 80 percent of those who have come here illegally are working part-time or full-time contributing to the common good of our country through the work they perform and the taxes they pay."
"I believe most Americans recognize the need for comprehensive reform of our fundamentally flawed U.S. immigration system," Bishop DiMarzio added.