Bishop urges Congress to pass immigration reform bill

.- Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando is urging Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill before the August recess.

In a message released May 1, the bishop urged lawmakers to pass the Security through Regularized Immigration and Vibrant Economy Act of 2007, known as STRIVE. The bipartisan bill (H.R. 1645) was introduced by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

His message, published in the Sentinel, said the STRIVE is on the whole encouraging and moves the immigration debate in the right direction

The bill "comports well with the principles needed for a just and humane immigration-reform bill," the bishop wrote. It promotes family reunification and has a realistic plan for bringing undocumented immigrants out of the shadows, the bishop noted.

He then criticized the Bush administration's most recent proposal for immigration reforms, calling them "deeply disconcerting." Bush’s proposal would make cuts to family-based immigration as well as impose fines and long wait-times for legalization.

Undocumented persons could apply for what would be a new "Z" visa. However, the "Z" visa could cost a family of five about $64,000 to eventually gain legal status. "Such high costs would discourage immigrants from applying and would replace the now-broken policy with one that is unworkable and impractical," the bishop said.

Furthermore, Bush’s proposal would eliminate or limit four categories of family preference for family reunification - adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, parents of U.S. citizens and some children of permanent residents. This would be a major departure from U.S. immigration policy, which has always favored the reunification of families, the bishop noted.

Limiting categories for family reunification would exacerbate illegal entry, said the bishop, "as people desperate to be reunited with loved ones would still cross borders without proper papers."

There are currently about 11 million undocumented immigrants who live and work in the United States.

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