Border Crossings

Where security & human rights collide


The terrorist attacks of September 11 present a fundamental challenge for faith-based immigrant advocates and service providers. As Catholics we identify migrants as our brothers and sisters, see in them the face of God, and recognize a duty to welcome them. In the United States, the church defends immigrants, in part, through a remarkable network of 240 charitable legal-service offices. The church does not support open borders or a straight civil-liberties approach to immigration policy. A sovereign state has the right to control its borders and to manage immigration in furtherance of the "common good." Yet, the common good is not served by the denial of human rights to immigrants. Nations exist precisely to safeguard and promote these rights. The question, then, is how to address the legitimate security threat posed by a small number of foreign-born terrorists, while working to welcome our nation’s more than 30 million foreign-born inhabitants. A recent report on the U.S.-Mexico border by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) highlights the difficulty of striking the right balance between national security and individual rights. The report documents in stark human terms the problems of a region that is both the nation’s poorest and the most affected by U.S. immigration policies. Policymakers would do well to heed the report’s lessons as they consider further changes to immigration laws and policies...

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About the Author

The Most Reverend James A. Tamayo, bishop of Laredo, Texas, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC).