Immigration: Voices of Faith Respond to House Republican Perspectives
BY CHRIS KERR | February 4, 2014
On January 30th Republican leadership in the House of Representatives released “Principles on Immigration” outlining their blueprint for immigration reform. We are excited by the potential for further dialogue on immigration reform that the blueprint offers. However, like many other faith-based immigration advocates, the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) remains concerned about protecting the dignity and value of each person, regardless of his or her immigration status, as the immigration reform debate moves forward. ISN will continue to advocate for “humane” reform that includes the following components:
- includes an accessible pathway to citizenship for all 11 million people without documentation, including those who would benefit from the DREAM act;
- works to maintain family unity in all elements of the immigration system;
- protects the most vulnerable, especially refugees and asylum seekers;
- respects the rights of U.S. and immigrant workers and
- ensure the human rights of immigrant families are protected as immigration laws are enforced
During February we will bring increased attention to the need for humane immigration reform through outreach and advocacy associated with Ignatian Family Advocacy Month. These efforts build on the participation of over 800+ advocates in the 2013 Ignatian Family Teach-In Advocacy Day on November 18, 2013 on Capitol Hill.
We are tremendously grateful to participate in many Catholic networks for immigration reform. Below please find statements from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, U.S. Jesuit Conference, Leadership Conference of Women Religious and NETWORK Catholic Social Justice Lobby.
U.S. CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS:
Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, commented January 31, to immigration reform principles released by House Republicans at their retreat in Cambridge, Maryland.
“I am encouraged by the release of these principles, which hopefully will spark action in the House of Representatives to finally address our nation’s broken immigration system,” Bishop Elizondo said. “Congress must seize the moment and end the suffering of immigrants and their families.”
Bishop Elizondo expressed concern, however, with some of the principles, particularly one that would confer legal status, and not a path to citizenship, to the undocumented in the country. The USCCB has consistently called for a path to citizenship for undocumented persons and their families.
“While we are pleased that there is a willingness to extend legal protection to those without status, we are concerned that most would be unable to achieve citizenship, leaving them as a permanent underclass—a minority without the same rights and protections of the majority,” Bishop Elizondo said. “This would establish a troubling precedent that is inconsistent with our nation’s founding principles.”
Bishop Elizondo also expressed reservations about the requirement that border enforcement triggers are met prior to immigrants receiving legal status. “The process of meeting border security goals could take years, continuing to leave millions vulnerable to deportation.”
Bishop Elizondo pledged to work with Congress and both parties for a law that is just and humane and serves the best interest of the United States.
“Achieving just immigration reform will not be an easy task and will require bipartisan cooperation and leadership, not politics. The Church stands ready to assist in this effort,” he said. “The release of these principles represents an important step toward that end.
USCCB position on immigration reform is available at: http://bit.ly/MrJ2YJ
On January 29th House Republican Leaders set forth their stance on immigration reform in a one-page document called “Standards for Immigration Reform.” These standards recognize a need to reform our current immigration system, however, the standards also leave many unanswered questions for millions of our undocumented community members.
“As Jesuits and Catholics we evaluate each policy proposal in light of its impact on the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Fr. Thomas P. Greene, S.J., Secretary of Social and International Ministries at the U.S. Jesuit Conference. “We are thankful that Republican lawmakers recognize the plight of DREAMers, but much of the language in the other standards seems unresponsive to addressing the situation of undocumented immigrants and needs further clarification.”
In their current form, these standards signal an intent to devalue family unity, limit judicial and prosecutorial discretion, and advance seemingly unattainable border and interior enforcement metrics. Regrettably absent is a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented aspiring Americans who contribute to our economic vitality but live in the shadows. As the debate on immigration reform continues, we urge the House of Representatives to rethink the increased militarization and egregious overspending on the southern border region, and to focus instead on enhancing the transparency and accountability of immigration enforcement.
The Jesuit Conference of the United States position on immigration reform is available at: http://bit.ly/1bNqnLO
The Jesuit Conference of United States will continue to work with our elected officials until just, comprehensive, and humane immigration reform becomes a reality.
LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE OF WOMEN RELIGIOUS:
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) welcomes the release of the Republican immigration standards and leadership’s willingness to engage in immigration reform.
“Achieving just and compassionate immigration reform will require the wisdom and leadership of legislators on both sides of the aisle,” said Sister Janet Mock, CSJ, executive director of LCWR. “We applaud Speaker Boehner’s willingness to enter into serious negotiation around one of the most pressing moral issues of our time.”
We are encouraged that the standards acknowledge the special circumstances and extraordinary potential of those brought to the United States as children and hope that legislation crafted in the House will apply to DREAMers broadly and respect the special needs of their families.
However, we are concerned about the implications of many of the other broad principles outline by US House Republican leaders in their statement of standards.
We are troubled by the prioritization of employment-based immigration over family unity. Our nation needs immigration reform that reflects the paramount importance and socio-economic contribution of families, not reform that pits one group of aspiring Americans against another. We need not sacrifice our families to meet the needs of our economy. In fact, ensuring family unity will help us meet our national economic goals.
While we acknowledge the responsibility of the federal government to secure our borders and enforce the rule of law, we believe the best way to protect America is to create a rationale immigration system that respects human rights and border communities, reunites families, and meets the needs of employers and workers.
Perhaps most concerning is the failure of the Republican standards to lay out a clear roadmap to citizenship for the approximately 11 million Americans trapped in the shadows by our broken immigration system. Our nation cannot abide an immigration law that bars our brothers and sisters from citizenship they are willing to earn and we will not tolerate legislation that consigns members of our community to second class status.
Sister Janet reaffirmed the pledge made by LCWR at its 2012 assembly. “We remain committed to seeing just and compassionate immigration reform enacted and look forward to working with Representatives across the political spectrum to ensure that the standards upon which our immigration law is built reflect Catholic social principles and the values of our nation.”
LCWR, and its members across the country, will continue to press for legislation that protects the dignity and human rights of all people; creates an achievable pathway to citizenship; fixes the immigration visa system and reunites families; protects the rights of all workers; promotes the full integration of newcomers; respects the special needs of the most vulnerable; and addresses the violence, persecution, and poverty that force migrants from their homes.
The faith community, immigrant advocates, and immigrants themselves have been pursuing reform that builds upon the seminal values of our nation for years. We have waited long enough.
“As women of faith we take seriously the gospel call to welcome the stranger and care for those in need,” said Sr. Janet. “Together with people of faith and good will we will continue to work to ensure that the rights of our immigrant brothers and sisters are fully protected.”
LCWR is an association of leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States. The conference has more than 1400 members, who represent more than 80 percent of the approximately 51,600 women religious in the United States. Founded in 1956, the conference assists its members to collaboratively carry out their service of leadership to further the mission of the Gospel in today’s world.
Sister Simone Campbell, executive director, has announced that NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, is pleased that House Republicans finally decided to address immigration reform, but is disappointed with the “Standards for Immigration Reform” released yesterday by their Caucus. Their statement provides no clear indication of what steps will be taken to pass legislation that will fix our broken immigration system.
The fundamental structure of our current system is flawed: the application process is backlogged; families are divided while business receives priority; and the economic needs of our country are not met. The House Republican standards do not adequately address these problems or the inevitable flow of immigrants to the U.S. for years to come.
Root causes of migration such as war, climate and our foreign trade policies are also ignored by the House Republican Caucus.
Most unacceptable is the lack of an explicit path to citizenship for aspiring Americans. Let’s be clear: we are not advocating for a “special path” to citizenship; we are looking for a system that works. As people of faith, we are called to recognize the inherent dignity of all individuals regardless of age, education level or country of origin, as well as the dignity of work. The U.S. immigration system must reflect this, and it must respect the right of families not to be torn apart. Real solutions to our broken immigration system will benefit the 100%.
It is absolutely essential that immigration reform include a clear (not special) pathway to citizenship and protect family unity. Congress finally has the opportunity to pass genuine reform, and we must seize the moment. NETWORK will tirelessly advocate for passage of immigration reform that:
- Ensures family unity
- Protects the rights of immigrant workers
- Acknowledges that our borders are already secure, with only minor changes needed
- Speeds up processing of already-approved immigrants
- Enhances the present diversity visa program
- Provides a clear and direct path to citizenship.
Chris joined the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) as executive director in 2011. He has over fifteen years of experience in social justice advocacy and leadership in Catholic education and ministry. Prior to ISN he served in multiple roles at John Carroll University, including coordinating international immersion experience and social justice education programming as an inaugural co-director of John Carroll’s Arrupe Scholars Program for Social Action. Prior to his time at John Carroll he served as a teacher and administrator at the elementary and secondary levels in Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. Chris speaks regularly at campuses and parishes about social justice education and advocacy, Jesuit mission, and a broad range of social justice issues. He currently serves on the board of directors for Christians for Peace in El Salvador (CRISPAZ). Chris earned a B.A. and M.A. from John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. He and his family reside in Shaker Heights, Ohio.
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