Bishop Soto on Immigration Reform

«While not perfect, the Senate legislation is a major improvement on the status quo»

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Here is the Monday statement from Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento on immigration reform. The bishop is a member of the board of directors of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

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I would like to outline for you our priorities for an immigration reform that works. The current immigration system is broken. The reform will fail if we do not fully incorporate the vital resources of the immigrant community into American Society. Immigrants should be able to participate in all aspects of American life so that we call can work together to build a promising future. 

First, we support an accessible and achievable path to citizenship that includes the maximum number of persons. If the goal of immigration reform is to address the issue of irregular immigration for good in a humane manner, then all undocumented persons should be brought out of the shadows and placed into the new system. Leaving a large group behind does not solve the problem and, in the future, could create new ones. We are concerned that income and employment requirements, not to mention large fines, could leave many persons behind. 

Second, family unity must remain the cornerstone of our nation’s immigration system. Immigrant families help our nation both economically and socially. This nation cannot take an immigrant’s labor and deny the immigrant’s family. We will work to maintain the integrity of the family-based immigration system. 

Third, we believe that enforcement by itself, especially along our southern border, will not solve the challenge of irregular immigration. The punitive enforcement-only approach has been the default policy for the last two decades. It has only aggravated the problem of irregular immigration. Our southern border should be a place of mutual support and an extension of hands across boundaries, not a militarized zone. Sadly, many of our elected officials see more enforcement along our border as the sole solution to irregular migration. We oppose the acceleration of border enforcement as a prerequisite for a legalization program that includes citizenship. An effective legalization program with a path to citizenship will lead to more effective border management. 

We must be mindful of the fact that there are many ways to reduce irregular migration, including the creation of legal avenues for migrants to enter the country and work legally. But we also must look at why people risk their lives to come here. We must address such issues, including global poverty and persecution. 

While not perfect, the Senate legislation is a major improvement on the status quo and will aid millions of persons. We will resist amendments that add harsh enforcement measures to the bill or weaken or eliminate changes to the legal immigration system, including the path to citizenship. 

As a church, we are called to defend the most vulnerable among us, in this case the migrant who has no voice or rights in this country. The interests of those whom the Bible describes as “the least of these” will guide our advocacy moving forward. 

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