This Thursday, July 29th, the controversial Arizona immigration law is set to take effect. While the majority of Americans agree with the passage and enactment of this law, the Church has opposed it from the beginning.
In the most recent show of opposition, Bishop Gerald Kicanas testified before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law on July 14th. In his testimony, the bishop of Tuscon remarked on the Arizona law, calling it an example of the frustration the American people have with Congress for the legislature’s laxity in passing immigration reform.
Throughout his testimony, the Vice President of the USCCB called for Congress to take steps to enact comprehensive immigration reform: “This is a situation which from a humanitarian and ethical stand point, needs to be addressed in a humane and comprehensive manner.”
The bishops recognize that each country has the right and the responsibility to produce statutes that guarantee the protection of their borders. However, in doing so, each country must pledge that the rights and dignity of all persons—documented and undocumented—be respected and defended. The Church asserts that countries should work together to try to solve the issues that cause people to migrate from one country to another.
Included in the bishops’ suggestions for true immigration reform are the following:
- Enact comprehensive immigration reform legislation that provides a legalization program (path to permanent residency) for undocumented workers in our nation; reforms the employment-based immigration system so that low-skilled workers can enter and work in a safe, legal, orderly, and humane manner; and reduces waiting times in the family preference system for families to be reunited.
- Examine the “push” factors of migration such as international economic policies and enact policies which encourage sustainable economic development, especially in sending communities;
- Enact in reform legislation the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits, and Security Act of 2009 and the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM);
- Adopt immigration enforcement policies that ensures our nation’s borders are secure at the same time that the abuse and deaths of migrants are prevented and their basic human rights and dignity are protected;
- Include the necessary elements in any legislation to efficiently implement any new immigration program, including taking actions to prepare the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service to implement any new program and to properly fund such implementation.
That being said, the bishops do not believe that those undocumented persons in the U.S. be given a free ride on the path to citizenship.
Bishop Kicanas stated: “As our testimony points out, comprehensive immigration reform would honor the rule of law and help restore it by requiring 11 million undocumented to pay a fine, pay back taxes, learn English, and get in the back of the line. We believe this a proportionate penalty for the offense.”
Ultimately, we need to be reminded that the United States is a country founded by immigrants. America has always been the land of opportunity and the land of freedom where people can come to live, work and pray in peace. The majority of the immigrants that come to our great country do so because they want a better life for themselves and their families.
No matter where you stand on this issue, contact your representatives in Congress and urge them to get the ball rolling on immigration reform that protects the rights and dignity of all human persons.
On a side note, a federal judge is due to issue a ruling on the constitutionality of the law sometime this week—reportedly before Thursday. Stay tuned for more on that.