US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Immigration reform: If not now, when?

By Meinrad Scherer-Emunds | Print this pagePrint |

Last week’s announcement by House Speaker John Boehner that he and his Republican caucus were unlikely to act on the long overdue immigration reform is the latest in a string of unconscionable postponements of progress on one of the most urgent social issues of our day. Coming only a week after raising hopes that House Republicans would finally get moving on immigration reform, Boehner’s latest disappointing reversal—and his disingenuous rationalizations for it —makes one wonder if the Republican leadership will ever escape the stranglehold of its extreme xenophobic wing.

I was pleased to read that retired Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick tried to make a last-minute intervention with Boehner just an hour before the Catholic speaker’s press conference last Thursday. While the door does not appear to be completely shut yet, the odds against making progress on immigration reform this year have unfortunately gotten considerably worse.

Kevin Appleby, migration policy director for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has tried to put as positive a spin as possible on Boehner’s latest move. Boehner’s comments, Appleby told the Washington Post, “don’t signal the end of immigration reform this year. It’s part of the process of moving forward…. This could signal the need to slow down and determine within the caucus what they want to do.”

But given the full-court press the xenophobic wing of the Republican Party has launched against immigration reform, one has to wonder if the Catholic bishops could and should not do a lot more to urge influential Catholic Republican leaders—besides Boehner, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio would top that list—to finally step up to the plate on immigration reform.

This past year, many Catholic dioceses all over the country mobilized on behalf of immigration reform. In November, shortly after his election as vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Galveston-Houston Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said the bishops "hope to be able to be a catalyst [on immigration reform] and we’re constantly getting our people together on this.”

So why can’t the USCCB leadership employ some real lobbying muscle in this hour of crisis for the immigration-reform effort? Why not team DiNardo up with Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, who has been an eloquent advocate for immigration reform from a conservative point of view, and have them make their rounds among Catholic Republican leaders in Washington? The USCCB is not reluctant to deploy real pressure on other issues, so why not on this one? And if not now, when?

Photo by Meinrad Scherer-Emunds