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Bishops deeply concerned about president’s immigration reform proposals

.- The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) migration committee has warned that the Bush Administration’s recent immigration reform proposals would be harmful to immigrants.

Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino, Calif., issued a warning in a letter to Congress this week, in which he also asked lawmakers to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Bishop Barnes wrote in his letter, that the bipartisan Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act of 2007 (STRIVE), “best comports with the principles needed for a just and humane immigration reform bill.”

However, the bishop continued, “unlike the STRIVE Act, which promotes family reunification and has a realistic plan for bringing undocumented immigrants out of the shadows, the Administration’s proposal would make cuts to family-based immigration as well as impose fines and wait times for legalization that are far beyond what most immigrants could bear,” wrote the bishop.

“As we understand it, the Administration’s proposal would effectively leave many immigrants seeking to legalize their status in a permanent underclass and would encourage family breakdown in immigrant communities,” he added.

Under the Administration’s proposal, undocumented persons eligible for new “Z” visas would have to pay $3,500 every three years to renew their visa and another $10,000 once they become eligible for permanent residency.

The proposal would also transform the immigration system from a family-based system to an employment-based system by eliminating or limiting four categories of family preference: 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.

It would also prevent participants in the proposed new “Z” visa program from petitioning for family members’ entry into the U.S., and prevent temporary workers in the “Y” non-immigrant visa program from bringing their immediate family members to the U.S.

Bishop Barnes emphasized that, the USCCB supports comprehensive immigration reform that includes a viable path to permanent residency for the undocumented population; a new worker program that includes appropriate worker protections, wage levels, and an opportunity to earn permanent residency; reductions in family reunification backlogs; the restoration of due process protections lost in the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA); and policies that address the root causes of migration, such as economic development in sending countries.

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