WASHINGTON (October 18, 2005)– Congress should pursue comprehensive immigration reform legislation that respects human rights and dignity and reject harshly punitive, piecemeal measures, according to the chairman of the Migration Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Bishop Gerald R. Barnes of San Bernardino specifically called on lawmakers to support the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, introduced in the Senate by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and in the House by Reps. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL).
"While we support the right of nations to control their borders, we note that, for much of the last decade, Congress has enacted one harsh, overly-punitive immigration control measure after another, yet the problems in our immigration system have grown during that period," said Bishop Barnes in a letter to every member of the U.S. House and Senate. "We believe the enactment of comprehensive immigration reforms, such as those that are contained in the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act of 2005, is the best prescription for an immigration system which is broken and needs repair."
Bishop Barnes called particular attention to several of the bill's provisions in keeping with the bishops' immigration policy priorities, outlined in Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope, a pastoral letter issued jointly in 2003 with bishops of Mexico:
* Temporary Worker Program: The bill would establish a program to permit foreign-born workers to enter the United States and work in a safe, orderly, and legal manner. Such a program would help reduce unauthorized migration to our country and also lower the number of deaths of migrants who attempt to cross the desert.
* Earned Adjustment: The bill would allow undocumented workers currently residing in the United States and contributing to our society the opportunity to earn permanent residency over time. Benefits of such a program would be to stabilize the workforce in many important industries, stabilize immigrant families, and allow law enforcement to direct resources toward the apprehension and prosecution of smugglers, human traffickers, and terrorists.
* Family-based Immigration: The bill would help to reduce the long waiting times for family reunification for immediate family members, including spouses and children. The USCCB has long argued that family reunification should remain a cornerstone of U.S. immigration policy.
* Enforcement: The bill contains a number of provisions that are designed to improve the ability of the U.S. government to strengthen the enforcement of our nation's immigration laws without violating basic human dignity.
Bishop Barnes said that while some in Congress have dismissed an earned adjustment program and called for cuts in legal immigration or harsh punitive measures for undocumented immigrants, the USCCB "reject[s] that failed approach, and we urge Congress to reject it, as well."