The U.S. bishops responded to President Obama's recent speech on immigration, noting the lack of government action so far in reforming the system.
“The president and Congress can no longer wait to address this important issue,” said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who heads the U.S. bishop conference's Committee on Migration.
“In the absence of comprehensive reform, many states and localities are taking the responsibility of enforcing immigration law into their own hands,” he added in a May 10 statement.
“This has led to abuses and injustices for many U.S. families and immigrant communities.”
President Obama discussed plans for immigration reform to a crowd gathered in the Texas-Mexico border town of El Paso on Tuesday. The remarks were part of a one day trip to Texas which included Democratic fundraisers in Austin.
The president called for legislation to provide a move toward citizenship for the approximately 11 million illegal immigrants who are already in the U.S. He also claimed his administration has done more than any other to increase border protection, with more agents on the ground and more fencing.
However, President Obama cited difficulty reaching policy agreement among lawmakers, saying that some Congressional Republicans will only consider measures that strengthen borders. Certain Republican leaders have recently called immigration proposals “amnesty” for lawbreakers, USA Today reported.
Archbishop Gomez underscored in his statement that reform is long overdue and requires bipartisan cooperation, not bickering.
“Congress and the President have a responsibility to come together to enact reform that corrects this humanitarian problem, respects the dignity and hard work of our immigrant brothers and sisters, and reflects America’s proud history as a hospitable society and a welcoming culture,” he said.
Archbishop Gomez said that comprehensive reform needs to include a path for currently undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship. He called for an end to federal enforcement policies that are harmful to families.
“Our current policies are breaking up families in the name of enforcing our laws,” he said. “That should not be.”
“We should be reuniting and strengthening families – not separating wives from husbands and children from their parents,” the archbishop noted.
The U.S. bishops' conference has long advocated for comprehensive immigration reform including border protection yet also granting undocumented workers the chance to earn permanent residency and eventual citizenship.