The introduction of bipartisan legislation to reform the US immigration system is a step in the right direction, says a US bishops’ representative, while clarifying that the episcopal conference is studying the measure introduced Wednesday.
Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, welcomed the introduction of the legislation April 17.
“The U.S. bishops look forward to carefully examining the legislation and working with Congress to fashion a final bill that respects the basic human rights and dignity of newcomers to our land — migrants, refugees, and other vulnerable populations,” the archbishop said.
The prelate commended the senators for bringing forward the proposal, in one of the most debated political issues of the day.
He also said that once it has completed its review of the voluminous bill, the USCCB may seek improvements upon the proposed legislation, consistent with principles for reform laid out for decades by the bishops’ conference, “so that any final bill creates an immigration system that restores the rule of law in a humane and just manner.”
In their 2003 pastoral letter, “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope,” the US bishops outlined several goals for immigration reform, which include:
— A path to citizenship for the undocumented that is achievable, set within a reasonable time frame and includes the maximum number of persons;
— The protection and enhancement of the family-based immigration system — based on the union of a husband and a wife and their children — including the reduction of backlogs and the shortening of waiting times;
— A program which allows low-skilled migrant workers to enter and work in the United States legally and safely, includes appropriate wage and worker protections, allows for family unity, and provides workers the option to apply for permanent residency and eventual citizenship;
— The restoration of due process protections for immigrants removed by the 1996 Illegal Immigrant Responsibility and Immigration Reform Act;
— The adoption of policies which address the root causes, or push factors, of irregular migration, such as persecution and the absence of living wage jobs in sending communities.
— The protection of other vulnerable populations, including refugees, asylum-seekers, and unaccompanied children.
Archbishop Gomez withheld comment on the specific details of the new legislation until the USCCB has analyzed its provisions.