.- The Catholic bishops of the United States urged the U.S. Congress Wednesday to resolve differences on immigration reform and to give the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country a path to citizenship, reported Reuters.
The government’s current enforcement-only approach to immigration has failed, and stronger border fences would not deter those seeking work in the U.S., the bishops told a press conference in Los Angeles, where they held their bi-annual conference.
The bishops said all undocumented workers currently in the U.S. should be given a "viable and workable earned path to citizenship," not just those who have been here longest. They also backed a temporary worker program and reforms that would reduce family immigration backlogs.
"Over the past 12 years, our government has spent $25 billion on enforcement of our border. During the same period, the number of undocumented in the nation has nearly doubled," Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino told the press conference. Bishop Barnes heads the U.S. Catholic bishops’ committee on immigration.
"We urge congressional leaders and the president to seize this historic moment and enact a just and humane immigration measure," he said.
Under the leadership of Cardinal Roger Mahoney, archbishop of Los Angeles, the city has been a strong voice in the immigration debate. The cardinal-archbishop has been one of the leaders of a large Catholic lobbying effort in the last six months for just immigration reform.
“Why are we [the bishops] involved? Fundamentally it is because it is our Gospel mandate ... to welcome the stranger,” Cardinal Mahony said. “The immigration debate ... is ultimately a humanitarian and moral issue.”