Welcoming Strangers

The "new" immigration to the United States stems from global changes—both economic and political—over the past forty years and from legal changes starting with the 1965 Immigration Act. The latter abolished the quota system that had systematically favored immigrants from Western Europe and had largely cut off immigration from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East after 1920. Meanwhile war, economic distress, the desire to be reunited with families, and the new legal opportunities since the 1960s have prompted a diverse immigration from Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific Islands, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.

While the new immigrants include many unskilled workers who perform difficult and menial tasks as in the past, the new immigrants also include many skilled workers, recruited to fill specialized positions as nurses, computer professionals, and scientists. The United States is thus beneficiary of the years of education, training, and experience that come with these new workers. While we welcome all the new immigrants and recognize that our Church, like the United States as a whole, has come to depend upon the many talents and profound energy of newcomers, we must also remind our government that the emigration of talented and trained individuals from the poorer countries represents a profound loss to those countries. And we remind heads of government around the world that emigration of all kinds—but especially that of those fleeing war and persecution, famine and economic distress—is a sign of the failure of the whole international community to guarantee the security and welfare of all people in their homelands.