Congress should pursue comprehensive immigration reform legislation that respects human rights and dignity and reject cuts in legal immigration and punitive, piecemeal measures, says Bishop Gerald Barnes, chairman of the Migration Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The bishop of San Bernardino specifically called on lawmakers to support the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, introduced in the Senate by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and in the House by Reps. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL).
"While we support the right of nations to control their borders, we note that, for much of the last decade, Congress has enacted one harsh, overly-punitive immigration control measure after another, yet the problems in our immigration system have grown during that period," said Bishop Barnes in a letter to every member of the U.S. House and Senate.
"We believe the enactment of comprehensive immigration reforms, such as those that are contained in the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act of 2005, is the best prescription for an immigration system which is broken and needs repair," Bishop Barnes said on behalf of the bishops’ conference.
Bishop Barnes highlighted the bill’s provisions that are in line with the bishops’ immigration policy priorities, outlined in "Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope", a pastoral letter issued jointly in 2003 with bishops of Mexico:
The bill would establish a program to permit foreign-born workers to enter the United States and work in a safe, orderly, and legal manner, and allow undocumented workers, currently residing in and contributing to U.S. society, the opportunity to earn permanent residency over time.
The bill would also help to reduce the long waiting times for family reunification for immediate family members, including spouses and children. Finally, it includes a number of provisions designed to improve the ability of the U.S. government to strengthen the enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws without violating basic human dignity.