Two Colorado bishops are urging state lawmakers to legislate for the “common good” on the issue of immigration reform.

In a recent commentary, published in the Denver Post, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver and Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs weighed in on the current statewide debate on immigration reform, which they believe may impact the immigration debate on the national level.

“Two qualities shape the tone of today's national immigration discussion,” they wrote. “The first is a legitimate concern for public safety, respect for the law and the financial health of our civil institutions and services. The second is a much darker alarmism that would cast many undocumented workers as potential deadbeats or terrorists.”
“We need to resist proposals that emphasize enforcement at the expense of real reform,” they wrote. “Punishing criminals is justice. … But turning poor people who seek a dignified existence for their families into criminals in order to punish them is not justice."

The Colorado General Assembly has organized a special session to address immigration reform. It is holding special hearings on a handful of bills designed to increase restrictions on illegal immigrants, including ensuring that only citizens vote, limiting state services - including health services - to illegal immigrants, and toughening sanctions against employers who hire undocumented immigrants, reported the Denver Post.

“We fully support security policies that target real threats to our peace,” the bishops continued. “But that should not require that we push further into the shadows some of the very workers who are strengthening and building our country.”

Over the past 15 years, Colorado and other states have seen a sharp increase in newcomers, many of them from Latin America.

The bishops urged that the debates in the special session take place in a spirit of goodwill. “If the legislature gets into a contest over which political party can be tougher on ‘illegals,’ we'll undermine our own best interests and miss an opportunity to help frame the national immigration discussion with common sense and justice,” they said.

“Immigration reform is not merely a policy debate. It's a profoundly moral issue,” they wrote. “Illegal immigration is a serious matter, but it should never be a felony.”