.- Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, Florida on Monday called on President Obama and congressional leaders to move forward on immigration reform, saying a “substantive plan” must emerge to show the Obama administration intends successful change.
Writing in the Orlando Sentinel, Bishop Wenski reported that President Obama will meet with congressional leaders this week to discuss immigration reform and its political practicalities. Noting that some supporters of immigration reform are concerned the meeting is “more political show than substance,” Bishop Wenski said the government must move forward on a bill.
“While opinions differ as to whether it is politically wise to move immigration-reform legislation in the first year, the president cannot afford to leave supporters empty-handed,” the bishop wrote. “What must emerge from this meeting is a substantive plan that shows that the administration intends to win this battle, even if it might take longer than expected.”
Bishop Wenski advocated “legislative and administrative actions” to increase public confidence that immigrants are “systematically” integrating into U.S. society. The actions should also increase confidence in the government’s ability to efficiently implement and enforce a new immigration system, he advised.
“I am not talking about more border enforcement. I am speaking of initiatives to show that, if we do intend to require 12 million people to earn citizenship, the infrastructure is in place to ensure that they are processed and able to learn English and civics in a reasonable time period,” he explained.
“In short, the administration must prove that these new immigrants, now in the shadows, can emerge and become good Americans.”
He added that a detailed national strategy on immigration would allay “cultural fears” that immigrants are “taking over” the American way of life and changing the country beyond recognition. The Obama administration must also hold “unscrupulous employers” accountable and enforce the rights of both immigrant and U.S. employees in the workplace.
Bishop Wenski credited the administration for “small steps” in reform, such as shifting enforcement priorities away from migrant workers to employer investigation and prosecution.
The bishop also called for the establishment of infrastructure to identify and process the 12 million immigrants in the country. His Orlando Sentinel essay also called for a reduction in the wait times for citizenship and other immigration benefits, which can often take “years.”
“In an era defined by Hurricane Katrina, government competency is an issue that cannot be ignored.”
“In order to move immigration reform forward, President Obama needs to take action, not just hold a meeting,” Bishop Wenski said.