.- Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles welcomed an immigration reform plan proposed by a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators as a much-needed foundation for further reform efforts.
“It is vital that the framework includes a path to citizenship, so that undocumented immigrants can come out of the shadows and into the light and have a chance to become Americans,” said Archbishop Gomez, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration.
The proposal “gives hope to millions of our fellow human beings,” he continued.
On Jan. 28, a bipartisan group of eight senators introduced a series of principles to guide Congress in enacting broad immigration reform in the U.S.
The framework would offer a “tough but fair” pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States. It would work to secure borders and better track immigrants, while promoting reforms that keep families together.
In addition, the plan would change the process for allowing future immigrants to enter the workforce, particularly those working in agriculture or obtaining advanced degrees in America. It would also strengthen efforts to effectively verify employment, prevent the hiring of unauthorized workers and fight identity theft.
The eight lawmakers who introduced the blueprint are Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jeff Flake (R-Fla.) Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Marco Rubio (R- Fla.).
The proposal aligns with many of the goals laid out in the U.S. bishops’ 2003 pastoral letter, “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope.”
That document outlines policy goals for U.S. immigration reform that include a path to citizenship for the undocumented and “family-based” immigration policies that reduce family separation times.
It also calls for programs allowing low-skilled workers to enter the country and work with adequate wages and protections.
In a Jan. 28 statement, Archbishop Gomez hailed the Senate blueprint as an “important first step” in the immigration reform process that “sets a bipartisan tone.”
However, he also observed that the current proposal will need to be improved, since it fails to address the root causes of migration, including persecution and a lack of living wages.
In addition, he noted, the framework fails to restore the due process protections for immigrants that were taken away by the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.
Still, the archbishop vowed that the bishops’ conference will support immigration reform legislation, while maintaining hope that reforms can be found to satisfy all parties.
“A reformed system can protect human dignity and the homeland at the same time,” he said.