Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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Catholic bishops launch campaign in support of comprehensive immigration reform
by Greg Cunningham, for the Inland Register
(From the Jan. 14, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)
With a new year come new legislative endeavors on the national level.
On Dec. 16, 2009, Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois introduced an immigration reform bill in the House of Representatives, the first indication that Congress is starting to turn its attention toward what promises to be a very lively discussion of U.S. immigration law, priorities and policies. Sen. Charles Shumer of New York is expected to introduce a similar bill in the Senate before long. Both bills reflect changes to immigration laws which are comprehensive in nature—that is, they both have components which are intended to tighten US borders, provide a path toward legalization for undocumented immigrants who are already in the United States, and a component which considers employers’ needs and how immigrants can meet them.
Long have government officials grappled with how to tighten the nation’s borders as a means of maintaining national security. By the same token, migrants seeking better lives for themselves and their families are willing to expose themselves to great peril in an attempt to cross into the United States from Mexico. Unfortunately, as security has increased along the southern border, so has the number of people who have died trying to enter the United States illegally as they seek more remote areas to cross.
Estimates suggest that there are around 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. They came here not to subvert U.S. law but to provide for their families when they could not do so at home. Many came as small children and know nothing of their homelands, yet are unwelcome here, the land they know best. Employers have come to rely on immigrant labor, even though they know that employing undocumented immigrants can put them and their businesses in jeopardy. Undocumented immigrant laborers contribute greatly to the U. S. economy, often working jobs that citizens and lawful immigrants are unwilling to do, yet they are not entitled to the benefits that the taxes they pay create.
Gutierrez’s and Schumer’s bills are intended to create a more effective and responsive immigration bureaucracy that is also somewhat humane, one that addressed the above issues as well as others.
Expect the debate to begin in late winter or early spring.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has, for some time now, made the reform of United States immigration law one of its top legislative priorities. Through its Justice for Immigrants (JFI) campaign, the bishops have outlined a plan for promoting comprehensive immigration reform legislation which has the following four components:
• Educating the public about Church teaching on migration and immigrants.
As part of this effort, JFI is sponsoring a postcard-writing campaign intended to address the first three of these points. Events that make up this campaign will be comprised of two parts, one that is educational and one that is action-oriented.
Presenters will provide an overview of the root causes of migration and the church’s response from the perspective of Scripture and Catholic social teaching. Afterward, participants will have an opportunity to write post cards to their state’s Congressional Delegation urging them to support immigration reform that protects both national security and human dignity and takes into consideration this nation’s employment needs. The bishops hope that there will be enough of a response to this and future projects to create the political will in Congress necessary to pass immigration reform legislation that reflects their priorities.
(For more information, contact Catholic Charities Spokane’s Refugee and Immigration Services Office, (509) 455-4960, or Scott Cooper, Director of Parish Social Ministries for Catholic Charities Spokane, at (509) 358-4273. More information is available on the Justice for Immigrant website: www.justiceforimmigrants.org.)
(Cunningham is Program Director of Catholic Charities Spokane’s Refugee and Immigration Services.)