“We bishops call for practical and humane immigration reform grounded in the Catholic experience,” he wrote.
Cardinal Dolan noted that the Church continues to help immigrants in the present day, providing English classes, job training and medical assistance. Throughout the country, Catholic Charities provided aid to 400,000 immigrants in 2012, he said.
In the midst of this charitable aid to immigrants, Catholics “see up close the suffering caused by the broken immigration system,” he continued. “Our nation has deported more than 1.5 million people over the past five years, separating hundreds of thousands of parents from their U.S.-citizen children.”
He also pointed to a prison system that holds 400,000 a year, “often in substandard conditions,” and the many people who die “horrible deaths on both sides of the border.” The cardinal noted that in a single county of Texas, the corpses of 129 migrants were found last year.
It is this humanitarian crisis which “requires a response,” wrote Cardinal Dolan. Informed by faith, the U.S. bishops call for a path to earned citizenship to “bring a generous number of people out of the shadows in a reasonable amount of time.”
He also emphasized that “family unity...must be a cornerstone of immigration reform, because strong families are the foundation” of strong communities.
“Poor and low-skilled workers should be able to enter the country legally and safely; the integrity of our borders should be assured; and due process protections should be restored to our system, including alternatives to detention,” he added.
Noting that immigrants are often fleeing “desperate situations” in their home countries, the cardinal said that American foreign policy must “address the root economic and social causes of migration.”
Having set out those principles for immigration reform, he explained that while the proposed bill is not perfect, it does address existing injustices and would improve the current state of immigration policy in the U.S.
The bill, introduced in the Senate with bipartisan support, would offer a 13-year path to citizenship for immigrants who are already in the country illegally. These immigrants will be required to pass background checks, be fingerprinted, pay fines and prove gainful employment.
The bill would also institute other changes including a wider pool of visas for migrant workers.
However, no undocumented immigrants would be able to apply for temporary status until certain border security “triggers” are in place, including a plan for a border fence and E-Verify program for employers.
(Story continues below)
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Cardinal Dolan urged support for the bill, saying that “when the grandchildren of today's immigrants look back on this moment, let them see America at its best – welcoming, generous and openhearted.”
He wrote that immigration reform policy must address basic questions, such as how we treat our brothers and sisters.
“Do we want to continue a system that keeps millions of people in a permanent underclass?” he asked. “Do we want to continue to separate a generation of children from their parents? Do we want to continue the American heritage of hospitality or not?”
“We must do better,” he concluded.