What happened immigration reform as an issue in the 2008 presidential election? That’s exactly what Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver is asking in his weekly column in the Denver Catholic Register, as he calls for an end to raids by customs agents and pushes for comprehensive reform.
“Here’s the surest sign of an election year: Certain hot potato issues—the kind that nobody in either major party really wants to deal with in a tight race—mysteriously disappear,” writes the archbishop.
Archbishop Chaput notes that political calculations seem to be the culprit, saying, “Little more than a year ago, immigration reform drove a ferocious debate throughout the country. But in 2008, candidates know that if they seem too tough on immigration, they’ll lose the vital Latino vote. If they seem too soft, they’ll anger many non-Latinos worried about their jobs, national security and the solvency of their public institutions.”
The result of all this political maneuvering has been a kind of “unstated truce,” in which many candidates and public officials are offering “generic concern about the immigration issue, but few actually doing anything until after the election,” the Denver prelate writes.
Lest people raise an outcry that the archbishop is against the law of the land, he pointed out that “the Catholic Church respects and obeys our immigration authorities and discourages anyone from violating our laws.”
“It’s also true, however, that most undocumented immigrants in the United States are here filling jobs that Americans don’t want but upon which our economy depends. They live peaceful and productive lives, and many have children who are now American citizens. They deserve to be treated with the respect commensurate to their human dignity,” he says.
This is not the first time that a Catholic bishop has spoken out in favor of reforming the immigration system. Just last week, Bishop of Salt Lake City, John Wester, speaking on behalf of the rest of the U.S. bishops, called for an end to the raids being conducted on illegal immigrants. Bishop Wester, emphasized that the bishops did not question the right of the government to enforce immigration laws, but questioned whether worksite raids are effective and “most importantly, humane.”
Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island also spoke out against raids in his state last month, calling them “unjust, unnecessary, and counter-productive.”
Archbishop Chaput agrees: “Immigration enforcement raids demonstrate politically the ability of the government to enforce the law. They do little, however, to solve the broader challenge of illegal immigration. They also reveal, sadly, the failure of a seriously flawed immigration system, which, as we have consistently stated, requires comprehensive reform.”
“Whoever takes power in Washington, the archbishop writes, this November needs to face the fact of a broken immigration system and the intense frustration and family suffering it continues to cause.”
The archbishop closes his column by reiterating that, “We need comprehensive immigration reform. But until that happens, we can at least end the use of worksite enforcement raids and the human turmoil they create.”