January 30, 2007
As Joan Rosenhauer of the United States Conference of
Catholic Bishops stood at the podium on the St. John’s
Staten Island campus yesterday, delivering a lecture on the
Church’s stance on U.S. immigration policy, one’s imagination
couldn’t help but float six miles northeast to Ellis Island, where
torrents of 19th century migrants once docked in search of a better
Two-hundred years later the United States is still hallowed
harbor to millions of non-natives vying to live the American dream.
And as Catholics, Rosenhauer told the audience of 200 students,
faculty and staff, we are called to shepherd their quest to live
peacefully among us.
The lecture, titled “Give Me Your Tired and Your Poor,” was
redelivered by Rosenhauer twice more yesterday; first on the Staten
Island campus and then on the Queens campus. It was presented as
part of the University’s 13th annual celebration of Founder’s
Week, which honors St. Vincent de Paul and celebrates the St.
John’s mission of serving the poor and disadvantaged. The theme of
this year’s weeklong ceremony is Respect + Compassion =
“We use our faith and values to shape these immigration policies
because we believe we are called to help the least among us,” said
Rosenhauer, Project Coordinator of the USCCB Department of Social
Development and World Peace and a specialist in applying Church
teaching to U.S. legislation debates. Reflecting on the human right
to dignity, homeland, asylum and migration, Rosenhauer said our
ultimate challenge is to look upon the 11 million illegal
immigrants within U.S. borders as “fellow children of God.”
“This lecture on justice for immigrants fits in perfectly with
the Founder’s Week theme of solidarity because it means walking
alongside our immigrant brothers and sisters,” said Paula Migliore,
Campus Minister for Social Justice and Athletics.
Rosenhauer cited many Catholic sources defending the rights of
immigrants, including Pope Benedict’s XVI’s first encyclical,
Deus Caritas Es, stating that “charity must animate the entire
lives of the lay faithful”; God’s “Great Commandment” to love thy
neighbor; and the famous scripture passage from the Book of Matthew
in which Jesus says “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was
thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me.”
Rosenhauer, who co-runs the USCCB Committee of Faithful
Citizenship and the Catholic Campaign Against Global Poverty, also
broached the practical benefits to immigration. Citing U.S. Bureau
of Labor statistics indicating that America will be short 2 million
low-skilled workers by 2010, she noted that the U.S. economy
depends on immigrant labor.
Presently, the USCCB is attempting to influence public policy to
allow illegal immigrants a path to permanent residence, to
establish a worker program that enables foreign-born workers to
enter the country safely and legally and to reduce the waiting time
for immigrants’ reunification with their families (which can take
up to 10 years), among other things.
“I take to heart the St. John’s Vincentian model of taking care
of people who are less fortunate,” said Dana Ortiz-Tulla, a senior
criminal justice major from Staten Island, after the lecture. “So
it was nice to learn today that the Church is able to enact policy.
Everybody is allowed to have a voice, and it’s good to know that we
have a voice as a Christian community.”