Catholic leaders worried national immigrant walkout could do more harm than good

.- Colorado’s three Catholic bishops have expressed concern over a massive nationwide walkout planned to demonstrate the impact that immigrants have on the U.S. economy. The bishops said that while well intentioned, the walkouts could do more harm than good in seeking true, comprehensive immigration reform.

The Bishops said in a Friday statement that they are urging members of the community not to take part in the May 1st ‘Day without Immigrants,’ pointing out that “Real immigration reform requires reasonable dialogue and positive actions that persuade our elected officials.”

The letter was signed by Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput, Colorado Springs’ Bishop Michael Sheridan, and Pueblo’s Bishop Arthur Tafoya.

They said that “Walk-outs, as well-intentioned as they may be, do not serve that end.” Instead, they “will hurt many business owners and employers who already support fair immigration reform. They endanger the very jobs that immigrants have come so far to fill and work so hard to maintain. They also frustrate those who are undecided.”

The bishops urged “all people affected by the immigration debate to go to work, to go to school and to show the state and country the contributions that immigrants bring to Colorado.”

“While immigrants have long felt overlooked,” they added, “America’s eyes will be open on May 1. This day is an opportunity to demonstrate the many ways in which you contribute to this community.”

The bishops specifically encouraged “Catholics and all people of good will…to take part in positive actions that lead to real solutions. Write to legislators and encourage employers and business owners to write also, demanding immigration reform that includes secure borders, paths to permanent residency, temporary worker programs, family reunification, labor protections for all workers, and wages and benefits that do not undercut domestic workers.”

They also called on Catholic communities around the state to dedicate the month of May to praying for justice for immigrants. The state’s dioceses have planned a number of prayer initiatives to this end.

A number of other prominent Catholic leaders have also encouraged immigrants not to participate in the walkout. They include Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Washington DC’s Cardinal William McCarrick, and Los Angeles’ Cardinal Roger Mahony--one of the staunchest voices for immigration reform in the country.

''Any kind of action or strategy that could give us a negative backlash of some kind is unhelpful in passing the legislation we need," Cardinal Mahony told members of the press at the U.S. Capitol Saturday. ''We do best by having people at work, having students in school, but using time during Monday to learn more about the immigration issue."

President George Bush and Democratic Senate Minority leader Harry Ried have also voiced their opposition to the boycotts.

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