Orlando bishop says U.S. immigration policy outdated, unjust

The United States need a new immigration policy that will protect and address the need of immigrant and U.S-born workers, said Bishop Thomas Wenski in a special column published in the Orlando Sentinel.

The bishop issued his message after federal officials rounded up 66 undocumented workers at a construction site in downtown Orlando last month.

He echoed President George W. Bush’s comment earlier this year that the U.S. immigration system is “outdated” and punishes hard-working people who only want to provide for their families.

These 66 arrests did nothing to enhance national security, which was the pretext used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in arresting them, said the bishop.

“Spending so much of our scarce enforcement resources chasing bricklayers, housekeepers and waiters seeking a better life for their families should no longer be an acceptable application of our security resources in a post 9-11 world,” wrote Bishop Wenski. “There are, after all, real criminals, drug dealers and terrorists to apprehend.”

Illegal immigrant workers do not wish to defy the law, said the bishop. Rather “the law does not provide them with any channels to regularize their status in our country, which needs their labor. They are not so much breaking the law as being broken by the law.”

The bishop expressed his belief that reforms can be implemented that will protect both immigrant and U.S.-born workers if legislators “put aside narrow partisan interests and truly work for the common good.”

In developing the reforms, the government should recognize that immigrants are already part of our communities, the bishop offered.

He pointed out that many immigrants work in important but low-paying jobs that most U.S.-born workers pass over, such as caring for children and the elderly, or cleaning, farming or construction jobs.

“These immigrant workers should be able to seek a decent wage, health care and respect on the job from employers who may freely hire them without having to worry about legal sanctions,” he wrote.

Bishop Wenski said the U.S. bishops are hopeful that Bush will renew the debate over immigration and develop a new policy soon.

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