Concluding remarks at May 1 rally: Cardinal Francis George, OMI
There is one word that says why we are together today: that word is respect.
Respect means that every person has human dignity and must be treated as a child of God. Respect means that families, in which each of us first learned what it means to be a human being, should not be divided, that husbands should not be separated from wives nor mothers from their children. Respect means that people who have been part of this country’s social and economic fabric for years should not now be treated as if they do not count, as if their contribution can be simply dismissed and they sent away. Respect is the foundation for our coming together.
What does respect not mean? Respect does not mean that every action has to be excused or that people are not responsible for their lives. Respect does not mean that our country should not clean up the inhuman situation that marks our borders and shames us all. It does not mean we should ignore human trafficking and the exploitation of migrants seeking work and a decent living. Respect does not mean that we should not criticize other governments when they do not attend to their own people’s needs and development.
The call to respect everyone has become in recent years a call for reform of our immigration laws. The Catholic bishops of the United States, along with many other religious and civic leaders, have long called upon our Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform legislation that will respect the laws of the United States, be fair to all and provide a genuine welcome for those who now unfortunately remain strangers in our midst. I am grateful to all of you here and to all who have supported this call for reform. I am proud of the efforts of priests of the Archdiocese and of ministers and other religious leaders and the lay people with them.
We who deal with people in their joys and sorrows, in their distress and desperation, know that people come to our country for many reasons: personal safety, economic opportunity, educational advancement, family reunion; and we also know that the overwhelming majority of those who come bring vitality to our common life, a desire to work in our economic system, and a presence that advances and strengthens our country. We recognize the inestimable contributions made by those who seek to live in dignity and freedom. They are our brothers and sisters, and we should—we will—find ways to welcome them legally. We will do this not only out of respect for them but also out of respect for ourselves.
We do not come together alone. God is always with us when we seek to do his holy will. Let us submit our plans and desires, our purposes and programs to a just God, who loves us beyond our every imagining and who gives us the dignity that demands respect. In the end, all that we are and have is a gift; together now let us thank Almighty God.