Colorado Catholic bishops: respect, human dignity must presuppose any meaningful immigration reform

.- As the issue of undocumented immigration continues to heat up, both at federal and many local levels, the Catholic Bishops of Colorado are insisting on a comprehensive reform of the nation’s immigration laws which, at their core, must assure that the immigrant’s dignity is not left behind in their country of origin.

On Saturday, the Colorado Catholic Conference hosted an Immigration Forum, attended by all three of the state’s bishops, as well as San Antonio’s Archbishop Jose Gomez and Brooklyn’s Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, a Catholic expert on immigration issues, and consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on the issue.

During a press conference held prior to the Forum--which closed the Archdiocese of Denver’s annual ‘Living the Catholic Faith Conference‘--Archbishop Charles Chaput, along with Colorado Spring’s Bishop Michael Sheridan and Pueblo’s Bishop Arthur Tafoya expressed their dissatisfaction at the direction of the current national immigration dialogue.

For his part, Bishop Sheridan said that Catholics should seek “real justice where people are not unduly suffering,” referring to some 100 cases in which he said the “plight of immigrants” led to their deaths crossing the border last year.

“Things are not working now,” he said, and “we don’t like the direction things are headed.”

Archbishop Chaput added that one of his main desires is that the immigration debate might not be such a hot issue, but rather, one that can be discussed reasonably. “People can’t even talk about it now,” he said, noting the often temper-driven national debates.

He said that he hopes that the Catholic Church can be a sign of hope to help bring about a real national dialogue of healing, and added that any reform that is not comprehensive is dangerous to the economy, to individuals and to families.

He chided election year legislations in which decisions tend to be politically motivated rather than aimed at finding real solutions.

“We hope”, he said, “that the government would bring together common principles and form legislation that really might pass.”

The Forum comes as the Colorado Bishops are launching a statewide campaign aiming to educate and mobilize faithful to respond to the difficult issue in light of Catholic Social Teaching.

The bishops strove to convey the complexity of the issue, saying that responsibility lies not only on the U.S., but on the immigrant’s countries of origin to find a solution.

Catholic Social Teaching, they pointed out, teaches first, that “persons have a right to find opportunities in their homeland,” second, that “persons have a right to migrate [in order] to support themselves and their families,” third, that “sovereign nations have a right to control their borders,” forth, that “refugees and asylum seekers should be afforded protection,” and lastly, that “the dignity and human rights of undocumented migrants should be respected.”  

These principles, Bishop DiMarzio pointed out, need to be assessed in light of the common good of all involved

The Colorado campaign is part of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s national Justice for Immigrants campaign.  

One proposed bill, already passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, would seek to criminalize those who assist undocumented immigrants--including charitable and religious workers.

Similar pieces of legislation are being debated in Colorado and around the country, although some hope of compromise came last Friday as the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee presented a surprisingly bi-partisan bill which shows signs of real compromise between sides.

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