My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Greetings of peace!
Migration is – as Pope Francis affirms – a “sign of the times” (cf. Message for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 15 August 2017). It is a complex reality that for several years now we have been facing and addressing. On the national level, immigration has been and continues to be a topic of debate and discourse. On the local level, immigration reform continues to be a priority concern due to restrictions on the immigrant workforce and their families.
A few days ago, the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act was introduced on the U.S. Senate floor. The proposed bill seeks to extend the CW-1 program beyond 2019, push the CW cap limit to 13,000 and set a new CW visa category for what will be called “legacy workers” that could be renewed every three years.
With the varied positions and continuing debate on how we as a nation, and as a Commonwealth, will achieve reform, we continue to move forward and do our best – together – to honor the good that is already in place and to change what can be made better. We continue to seek answers, explore options, weigh things, and find solutions. In this regard, I wish to offer some points for reflection, consideration and guidance.
First of all, in anything we do, we should seek and promote the common good – that is, “the sum of those conditions” in society that will enable individuals and groups to grow and be fulfilled (cf. Gaudium et spes, 26). In other words, we should see to it that the social environment, which is composed of many aspects or factors, promotes the growth of individuals and groups in society. Clearly, the achievement of the common good is a concerted effort of people, who go beyond their personal interest or the interest of their own group. Narrow-mindedness is to be abandoned in order to serve the greater good.
We should remember, too, that “in the present condition of global society, where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable, the principle of the common good immediately becomes, logically and inevitably, a summon to solidarity and a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters.” (Laudato si’, 158)
Second, we should always bear in mind that here, we are dealing with persons. We are not just addressing an issue. We are dealing with persons, who have their own personal stories, their rights and sentiments. We are concerned that local workers have access to jobs. We recognize the contribution of foreign workers and their families to our community. Together we are a strong community.
Once we lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with persons, we tend to be dismissive and detached. It becomes easier for us to have that “throw away” mentality that Pope Francis criticizes. We may come up with quick solutions, but we may end up, too, treating people as expendable.
Third, the reality of migration invites us to examine and to confront ourselves. Are we doing things to maintain “our lifestyle,” “our way of life”? Or are we being invited to change, even our way of life, because that is the good thing to do? Aren’t we perhaps being called to live simply so that others can simply live?
Indeed, “Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption… [It] proposes a growth marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little.” (Laudato si’, 222)
To those among us who would argue that migrant workers have no place in our islands, I wish to repeat the words of Deuteronomy: “You too should love the foreigner, for that is what you were.” (cf. Dt 10, 19). And to the migrant workers and their families, I wish to repeat what the prophet Jeremiah told the Jewish exiles in Babylon: “Seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you; pray for it to the Lord, for upon its welfare your own depends.” (Jer 29, 7).
These words from Scripture remind us to look at one another with kindness, benevolence, and charity; to look at one another as neighbors, as human beings with gifts and talents – not as strangers, not as competitors or potential enemies. We are members of one family. We are all God’s children. Thus, dealing with migration should bring about in us – instead of tension and distrust – a keen sense of solidarity and compassion.
May God bless us all!
Sincerely in Christ,
+ Most Reverend Ryan P. Jimenez, D.D.
Bishop of Chalan Kanoa