Bishops Fault Bush’s Immigration Plan

Fails to Take Families Into Account, They Say

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 24, 2007 ( U.S. bishops have warned lawmakers that President George Bush’s recent proposals for immigration reform would be “a step in the wrong direction.”

Bishop Gerald Barnes wrote on Thursday in an open letter to Congress: “Although we appreciate the president’s initiative in encouraging comprehensive immigration reform, we see this proposal as a step in the wrong direction.”

Bishop Barnes, the chairman of the U.S. episcopal conference’s migration committee, added: “In our view, any reform legislation must include a viable path to permanent residency for the undocumented population; a new worker program that includes appropriate worker protections, wage levels, and an opportunity to earn permanent residency.”

The letter also called for reforms that include “reductions in family reunification backlogs; the restoration of due process protections lost in the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act; and policies that address the root causes of migration, such as economic development in sending countries.”

Deeply concerned

“While we are encouraged by the direction of the immigration debate with the introduction of the STRIVE [Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy] Act, we are deeply concerned by the administration’s most recent proposal for comprehensive immigration reform,” the 61-year-old prelate added.

The San Bernardino prelate said: “Unlike the STRIVE Act, which promotes family reunification and has a realistic plan for bringing undocumented immigrants out of the shadows, the administration’s proposal would make cuts to family-based immigration as well as impose fines and wait-times for legalization that are far beyond what most immigrants could bear.”

After lamenting the costs for visas proposed in the plan, the bishop added: “The administration plan also would transform our immigration system from a family-based system to an employment-based system by eliminating or limiting four categories of family preference.

“It also would prevent participants in the proposed new ‘Z’ visa program from petitioning for family members and prevent temporary workers in the ‘Y’ nonimmigrant visa program from bringing their immediate family members to the United States.”

Instead, the bishops recommended approval of the STRIVE bipartisan legislation introduced by representatives from Arizona and Illinois.

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