Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Catholic Attorneys To Debate Illegal Immigration

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published January 22, 2009

‘Responses to Those in Our Midst:
A Debate on Illegal Immigration’
Tuesday, Feb. 3, 7-8:30 p.m.
Emory University’s Candler School of Theology,
Room 252

Two leading Catholic attorneys will debate at Emory University the volatile issue of immigration and illegal workers.

Michael A. Scaperlanda, professor of law at Oklahoma University, and William W. Chip, a senior partner with the law firm of Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C., are to continue their debate that started in the pages of First Things, a journal focused on religion and public policy. It will be their first face-to-face debate.

The Aquinas Center of Theology, an independent center of Catholic theology and research at Emory, is sponsoring the event on Tuesday, Feb. 3, at 7 p.m. at the university’s Candler School of Theology.

Phillip Thompson, the center’s director, said the debate is an opportunity to hear speakers who are well versed on the issue, but with divergent views. The event is designed to make the discussion more profound and thought provoking.

“Reasoned discourse will provide the opportunity to exchange slogans for careful reflection,” he said by e-mail.

“This is a very important issue for the Catholic Church in Georgia which is dealing with large numbers of immigrants and many of them are illegal,” he said.

The two authors wrote opposing columns in the May and June/July issues of First Things. Both agreed on the church’s teaching on immigration. The split was on implementing the church’s vision.

Chip argued for reducing the number of illegal immigrants by withholding “nonemergency public benefits” to encourage the workers to return to their own countries.

“The federal, state, and local governments are plainly incapable of caring for tens of millions of poor immigrants while also fulfilling their ordinary duties to the rest of us, not to mention their special duties to America’s own underprivileged citizens,” he wrote.

Chip advises the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that advocates for increased border security, stopping illegal immigration, and curbing the number of legal immigrants to about 300,000 a year. In his law firm, Chip is the firm’s senior international tax partner.

For the other side, Scaperlanda endorsed a six-part plan to help resolve the status of the undocumented workers, including speeding up family unification and applying pressure on other countries to develop robust economic opportunities for workers.

“As Christians, no matter what our assessment of the facts on the ground, we must strive to see the human face of those who plead—often at risk to their own lives—for access to our resources. We must see them as brothers and sisters and not as thieves, a means to cheap labor, or mere lawbreakers,” said Scaperlanda, a teacher of constitutional and immigration law.

Susan Sullivan, the director of parish and social justice ministries for Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of Atlanta, said there have been many opportunities for Catholics to hear the official church teaching on immigration and it is clear many Catholics disagree with it. The office is one of the debate co-sponsors.

“The hope is that there can be a respectful exchange of thoughtfully expressed viewpoints,” she said. “It is the baptismal call of Catholics to be advocates for just public policy as articulated in both the (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’) ‘The Challenge of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship’ document and in Pope Benedict’s encyclical ‘God is Love.’ To do this, we have to be able to talk and to listen to each other,” said Sullivan.

Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory co-wrote a pastoral letter about immigration reform in 2006 with Savannah Bishop J. Kevin Boland.

The debate format includes brief presentations by each lawyer and rebuttals and three questions from a panel. It concludes with questions written by the audience and selected by Thompson.

Other co-sponsors include the Emory University Department of Religion, the Candler School of Theology and the Emory Center for Ethics. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact (404) 727-8860.