Washington D.C., Nov 9, 2013 / 16:33 pm
As L.A. Archbishop José Gomez laments the lack of urgency to reform the immigration system, the U.S. bishops are urging Catholics to call and write Congress to support "just and compassionate immigration reform."
"Immigration reform can't wait. We can't let another year slip away, doing nothing," Archbishop Gomez said in his Nov. 8 column for Los Angeles' archdiocesan newspaper, The Tidings.
"Millions of our brothers and sisters are suffering – and they have been for years now."
The U.S. bishops are asking that Catholics call their congressmen in support of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and in opposition to the SAFE Act.
The SAFE Act would make illegal residence in the U.S. a federal crime and strengthen state and local law enforcement authority to arrest and charge immigrants for overstaying their visas or entering the U.S. without documentation, the Washington Post says.
Catholics are asked to call Congress at 1-855-589-5698 on Nov. 13, the feast of St. Frances Cabrini, patron saint of immigrants.
The U.S. bishops' conference has a special website on immigration, www.justiceforimmigrants.org, that also encourages Catholics to send a postcard to Congress.
The postcard advocates a path to citizenship for the undocumented, while preserving family unity as a "cornerstone" of the immigration system. The postcard asks for the restoration of due process protections in immigration enforcement and legal avenues for low-skilled immigrant workers to enter and work in the U.S.
The postcard also asks Congress to address the "root causes" of migration, such as persecution and economic disparity.
Archbishop Gomez, chair of the U.S. bishops' committee on migration, said immigration reform must address the suffering of "the anonymous men and women who dire regularly in the desert trying to reach our borders," as well as the victims of human trafficking, the men and women who make up "a vast underclass of workers without rights."
It must also address young people whose parents brought them into the country illegally and now cannot enroll in school or legally work, he commented.
"Two-thirds of the undocumented persons in our country have been here for at least a decade. They are our neighbors and classmates. They are the people we sit next to in church on Sunday," he said, lamenting the nearly 2 million deportations over the last four years.
Archbishop Gomez noted Pope Francis' visit to the small Italian island of Lampedusa, an arrival point for undocumented immigrants from North Africa to Europe. There, the Pope reached out to immigrants and mourned the thousands who have died at sea.
The archbishop said that Lampedusa represents "a dark region of the heart" where people become "insensitive and indifferent to the sufferings of others."
"Immigration reform is a life issue and it is a family issue. And it is a question of our soul."
"Jesus told us that he would be present in the immigrants, in the prisoners, in those who are suffering sickness and poverty. What we do to them, we do him."
Archbishop Gomez prayed that we "rediscover our capacity to care for one another and to be close to others in their sufferings."
"And let us ask Mary, our Blessed Mother of Refuge, to help revive hearts deadened by indifference."