US Bishops: Immigration Laws Hypocritical

Say System Perpetuates Class of Workers Without Rights

WASHINGTON, D.C., FEB. 14, 2008 ( U.S. bishops are telling the government that its immigration laws are hypocritical because they do not protect the rights of workers.

Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the episcopal conference’s Committee on Migration, criticized immigration laws in a Feb. 7 statement sent after both houses of Congress approved an economic and stimulus package that included language to prohibit undocumented immigrants from receiving tax rebates.

“The decision to prohibit undocumented immigrants from receiving tax rebates in the stimulus bill highlights the injustice in our immigration system,” he wrote. “It proves that these workers pay into the tax system and help support our economy. It also reveals the hypocrisy of our laws. With one hand our government attempts to deport these workers, but with the other it holds tight the taxes they pay into the system. This perpetuates an underclass of workers without full rights.

“We should not accept the fruits of the labor of these workers at the same time we refuse to provide them the protection of our laws. As a democratic and free nation protective of human rights, we cannot have it both ways. Congress must mend a broken system and show the courage to enact comprehensive immigration reform.”

Bishop Wester and Bishop Jaime Soto, coadjutor bishop of Sacramento and chairman of Catholic Legal Immigration Network also sent a letter Feb. 11 to Michael Chertoff, secretary of Homeland Security, expressing concern regarding Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s intensified enforcement activities and the protocols followed for such actions.

“Although ICE has recently issued guidance regarding worksite enforcement operations, we believe that the guidance falls short of what is necessary,” said the bishops in the letter.

They urged the enforcement agency to adopt further measures, including refraining from conducting enforcement activities in certain areas, such as at or near churches, hospitals, community health centers, schools, food banks, or other community-based organizations that provide charitable social services; suspending immigration enforcement activities in the wake of natural or man-made disasters; facilitating access to legal counsel and avoiding the transfer of individuals outside the community; and implementing mechanisms for locating family members detained as a result of enforcement actions.