U.S. Bishop Urges Wider Immigration Reform

In Testimony to Senate Panel

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WASHINGTON, D.C., FEB. 13, 2004 (Zenit.org).- President George Bush’s proposal for a temporary worker program for immigrants falls short of the standards articulated by the U.S. and Mexican bishops, according to congressional testimony.

«I welcome President Bush’s decision to engage the important issue of immigration reform,» said Bishop Thomas Wenski, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Migration Committee, in testimony Thursday. «It is significant that the president recognizes that our immigration system is broken and in need of reform.»

Yet, Bishop Wenski contended that the administration plan is too narrow and does not include sufficient safeguards to ensure that workers’ rights are protected.

A joint pastoral letter by the U.S. and Mexican bishops last year called for comprehensive immigration reform that features:

— a broad-based legalization to allow the undocumented an opportunity to become permanent residents;

— reform of the U.S. family-based immigration system to ensure that families are reunited in a timely fashion;

— and changes in the employment-based immigration system to allow workers to work in the United States legally and with appropriate safeguards to ensure their rights are protected.

The letter also calls for a re-examination of the U.S. «border blockade» strategy used along the U.S.-Mexican border over the past 10 years.

«We are disappointed that the administration plan does not allow those who work in the program the opportunity to access, after some period of time, permanent residency and possible citizenship, if they so choose,» Bishop Wenski said.

However, he commended Bush’s intention to create more permanent visas so immigrants can access permanent residency through sponsorship by an employer or family member.

Bishop Wenski submitted his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship.

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