Bishops push for immigration reform without same-sex recognition

Migrant workers rest after picking cucumbers all morning on a farm in Blackwater Virginia Credit Laura Elizabeth Pohl Bread for the World CC BY NC 20 CNA US News 7 30 12 Migrant workers rest after picking cucumbers all morning on a farm in Blackwater, Virginia. | Laura Elizabeth Pohl-Bread for the World (CC BY-NC 2.0).

The U.S. bishops joined with a broad array of Christian leaders to stress the need for immigration reform, while reportedly voicing objections to a proposal that would recognize same-sex partners.

"As a moral matter, we cannot tolerate an immigration system that exploits migrants, is inhospitable, and fails to offer immigrants the full protection of the law," said Christian Churches Together, a broad ecumenical coalition of major Christian denominations.

At the conclusion of a four-day gathering in Austin, Texas, the assembly issued a Feb. 1 statement encouraging comprehensive solutions for immigration reform. 

"While immigration is often viewed as an economic, social, or legal issue," the statement said, "it is ultimately a humanitarian and spiritual issue that directly impacts millions of unauthorized immigrants and the entire fabric of our society."

"Each day in our congregations and communities, we bear witness to the effects of a system that continues this legacy of separation of families and the exploitation, abuse, and deaths of migrants," it continued. "This suffering must end."

The organization issued guiding principles for immigration reform, emphasizing an "earned path to citizenship" for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, a focus on family reunification, refugee protections, and the strengthening of both border security and due process for immigrants.

In addition, the group highlighted the need to examine and address "the root causes" of unauthorized migration.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which agreed to join in Christian Churches Together in 2004, had laid out similar policy guidelines in a 2003 pastoral letter, "Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope."

But while they have applauded key elements of some major reform plans, the bishops have also expressed concern over proposals supported by President Barack Obama. According to the Associated Press, the Catholic bishops joined with other religious groups in sending a letter to Obama objecting to his proposed recognition of undocumented same-sex partners along with spouses and family members.

A White House fact sheet said the president's plan "treats same-sex families as families by giving U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to seek a visa on the basis of a permanent relationship with a same-sex partner."

The signatories have decided not to make the letter public, reported the Associated Press.
Attorney Kim Daniels, coordinator of Catholic Voices USA, voiced hope that "the administration will focus on practical solutions instead of overreaching by adding more controversy to an issue that's difficult enough as it is."

Daniels told CNA that despite the tension surrounding the issue, "Catholics are called to stand up for all our Church's teachings."

"Immigration reform is an area in which we can meet on the common ground of respect for human dignity and the rule of law," she said.

"Catholics are an immigrant Church that brings to the table not only our robust teachings on this issue, but also our long experience serving immigrants day-in and day-out in communities across the country," she stressed. "That voice should be an essential part of the conversation."

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