The president of the US bishops’ conference says “now is the time” to fix the nation’s broken immigration system.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said this Monday at a press conference, where he was joined by Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chair of the USCCB Communications Committee.
“Let me say that now is the time to address this issue,” Cardinal Dolan said. “As we speak, persons are being deported and an untold number of families are being divided. Human beings continue to die in the American desert. This suffering must end.”
The Catholic Church has much to bring to the national immigration debate, given the Church’s history as an immigrant church, “having welcomed successive waves of immigrants into our parishes, social service programs, hospitals, and schools,” Cardinal Dolan added. “As the pastor of the archdiocese of perhaps the greatest immigrant city in the world, I know first-hand of the many efforts that have been made by the Catholic community on behalf of immigrants.”
He pledged to work with the sponsors of immigration legislation and other elected officials to “achieve the most humane legislation possible.”
In responding to recently introduced immigration reform legislation in the U.S. Senate, Archbishop Gomez said the path to citizenship for the undocumented population in the legislation is welcome, but certain requirements “could leave many behind, remaining in the shadows.” He pointed to areas of improvement including a need to shorten the time required to obtain citizenship, to create a more generous cut-off date and to remove barriers for low-income migrants.
“If the goal [of the legislation] is to solve the problem in a humane manner, then all undocumented persons should be able to participate,” Archbishop Gomez said. He also cited the need to preserve family unity as the cornerstone of the nation’s immigration system.
“This is an important and historic moment for our country and for the Church,” Archbishop Gomez added. “We hope to see the legislation improve and advance, and we will work toward that end. The lives of millions of our fellow human beings depend upon it.”
Bishop Wester said that eligibility for permanent status and citizenship should not be contingent upon enforcement initiatives contained in the legislation. He warned that it could create a de-facto permanent underclass.
Bishop Wester also called for the immigration debate to be conducted in a “civil and respectful” manner.