What struck me about him was how clearly he saw the role of the Church in this very political matter.
The Church has the obligation to call government to pay attention to principles of morality, particularly the principle of the intrinsic dignity of every human person. She also has the obligation, through all her members, to show each person the care and respect due to him or her as a child of God.
The question of immigration is one that, from a Catholic point of view, is open to a great deal of debate. Erin cites the Catechism 2241, which says:
The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.
Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.
So, what sort of "juridical conditions" are appropriate? What kinds of enforcement are valid for those who don't meet those "juridical conditions"?
In the interest of clarity - the main topic of this blog, after all - I would suggest a minimal starting point. First, any position that denies the basic human rights of any person, including those who have not met the U.S.'s "juridical conditions" for immigration, is beyond the pale of Catholic teaching. We have, both as individuals and as a society the privilege and obligation of recognizing and protecting their dignity as persons. No one ceases to be human just by crossing a border.
Second, any positions that denies the state the ability to regulate its borders or to impose "juridical conditions" of any kind also falls outside the realm of Catholic teaching. The government is charged with the common good of society, and each of us has a responsibility to care for our fellows as well as ourselves.
In our conversation, I agreed with Bishop Wester that the ideal would be for every immigrant to be properly processed and authorized; but that is not the situation we live in right now.
With regard to the new Arizona law, I must plead ignorance of the details. I'll look more into it and let you know what I find. But my first-glance impression is that it's probably an imprudent law, even if not strictly speaking an immoral law. What I've heard most is that it opens the way to racist mistreatment of Hispanic people. I'd be surprised if the law explicitly allows any such thing, but I would easily believe that it could make prosecution of racist law officers more difficult.
More to come, I'm sure.