American Bishops urge Immigration Reform
Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Gomez encouraged the leaders to address immigration reform as soon as possible, as new state laws will continue to “tear at the social fabric of our nation, until it is torn beyond repair.”
Letter to House on Immigration, March 2012
March 22, 2012
Honorable John Boehner
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Mr. Speaker:
We write to you on a continuing pressing issue that is once again emerging throughout the nation and calls for immediate congressional action---immigration.
As you may know, there exists a national consensus that the U.S. immigration system is severely flawed and needs an overhaul. The U.S. Catholic bishops have called for reform of our nation’s immigration laws for years now, advocating for a new system which balances our heritage as a nation of immigrants with respect for the rule of law. Not only must we re-examine enforcement strategies and policies, Mr. Speaker, we also must revamp other aspects of the system, including legal immigration and family unification policies.
Passage of immigration reform is more important now than ever, as State laws and local enforcement initiatives are filling the immigration policy vacuum left by Congress. This has created a patchwork of laws and policies throughout the country which have led to discord in our communities.
Of particular concern to us and our brother bishops is the impact our broken system is having on immigrant families, many of whom have one or more undocumented persons among their number. Federal and local law enforcement policies have led to an unprecedented separation of families, as undocumented parents are being separated from their U.S. citizen children. Children are often the innocent victims of these policies, which leave them without parents and less opportunity to live a full and productive life in their home country, the United States.
In addition, State laws in Alabama, Arizona, and other States have created environments in which immigrants, regardless of their legal status, and law enforcement personnel are pitted against each other, eroding long-held trust between immigrant neighborhoods and local authorities. Because of congressional inaction, the federal courts have been forced to intervene to halt their implementation.
Mr. Speaker, the divisions between U.S.-citizens and immigrant communities are growing as a result of these State and local immigration policies. Unless Congress acts in the near future, we are deeply concerned that these new laws will continue to tear at the social fabric of our nation.
Moreover, certain provisions of these laws could negatively affect church ministries---soup kitchens, homeless shelters, hospitals, and parishes---which provide basic material and spiritual needs to persons who seek help, regardless of their legal status. We, along with other faith-based organizations, should not be required to check a person’s immigration status in order to serve them.
As pastors to millions of Catholics across the nation, we and our brother bishops are keenly aware of the human suffering being caused by our flawed immigration laws, as we witness it each day in our parishes, social service programs, and health-care facilities. We also understand the political challenges confronting federal immigration reform and the political divisions caused by this issue.
Soon, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of Arizona v. United States, in which they will decide whether the federal government maintains full authority to enact and implement laws governing immigration. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will file an amicus brief in the case in support of the federal government.
Mr. Speaker, we stand ready to work with you to help all Americans, as well as their congressional representatives, better understand the importance of immigration reform, so that the members of Congress feel more emboldened to address this important issue—sooner rather than later. We urge you to work to build consensus with your colleagues so that immigration reform legislation can be adopted by Congress as soon as possible.
With prayerful best wishes,
His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
His Excellency José H. Gomez
Archbishop of Los Angeles
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration