Continue to welcome immigrants Print
Thursday, Feb. 09, 2017 -- 12:00 AM

In the 1970s, I remember going to Fort McCoy in Wisconsin to do a story on refugees from Vietnam who were settling in the Diocese of Madison.

One of our parishes — St. Joseph Parish in Dodgeville — helped sponsor a number of these Vietnamese refugees.

Over the years, refugees from other countries received assistance settling in our diocese through the Catholic Charities resettlement program.

Programs such as this continue throughout the United States through Catholic Charities and other religious-based agencies.

Welcoming strangers

As the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reminds us, “The Catholic Church in the United States is an immigrant Church with a long history of embracing diverse newcomers and providing assistance and pastoral care to immigrants, migrants, refugees, and people on the move.

“Our Church has responded to Christ’s call for us to ‘welcome the stranger among us,’ for in this encounter with the immigrant, the migrant, and the refugee in our midst, we encounter Christ.”

Fear of terrorists

Especially since the events of September 11, 2001, American citizens have lived in fear of violence perpetrated by terrorists. It has caused many people in our country to reconsider our openness to welcoming immigrants.

I can understand these fears, but from what I’ve read, a very small percentage of immigrants has caused violence here. Most of the violence is caused by our own citizens.

Oppose Executive Order

I am opposed to President Donald Trump’s Executive Order stopping the entire refugee admissions program for 120 days and suspending issuing of visas to immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The president’s action is not in keeping with the tradition of welcoming immigrants and it is certainly not in keeping with Catholic teaching.

The Wisconsin Catholic Conference has issued an action alert asking concerned citizens to join with the USCCB and its immigration advocacy partner, Justice for Immigrants (JFI), to contact President Trump and their members of Congress, urging them to support our nation’s refugee system and to reevaluate the Executive Order. To send an electronic message, click the JFI Action Alert at

Part of a suggested message says, “As a Catholic, I believe in the human dignity of all human beings, including immigrants and refugees. I strongly support the longstanding, U.S. government leadership on refugee protection that both Republican and Democratic administrations have asserted. I strongly support a refugee program that is safe for refugees and the communities that welcome them. While urging the government to continue improving the safety and security of the system continuously, I believe that the current program is a safe one.”

From what I understand, the vetting process for refugees and immigrants is very strong. It often takes two to four years for refugees to be accepted into our country.

Some of those granted visas are hoping to rejoin their family members in the United States. Many of these refugees are fleeing violence in their native countries.

Let’s urge the president and our members of Congress to rescind the Executive Order and begin welcoming immigrants again as we have done for so many years.