Bishops begin push for immigration reform
Bishops John Wester of Salt Lake City, Utah, and Howard Hubbard of Albany, New York, announced a campaign by the bishops to urge Congress to pass comprehensive compassionate immigration reform soon (see statement of Bishop Wester). The campaign will include preaching and bulletin inserts to explain the bishops’ position. Catholic congregations will be urged to take action by sending post cards --1.5 million of which are already printed and distributed -- to send to representatives and senators. Also the U.S. Catholic Conference of bishops has relaunched its Justice for Immigrants website to keep people undated as legislation proceeds.
Bishop Wester outlined five general areas the bishops want us to ask Congress to reform:
• a pathway to citizenship for the 11-12 million of undocumented;
• reforms for family migration – the so-called “family reunification”;
• legal avenues for migrants to come here to work;
• the restoration of due process protections for immigrants;
• steps to address the root causes of migration or the push factor.
Much of the detail is to be worked out by the two chambers of Congress. The bishop welcomed the introduction of a bill in the House by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and the beginning of hearings in the Immigration Committee of the Senate. The process will be messy – hopefully not as messy as the health care debate. That is not expected since there is a modicum of support among Republican Senators. The Arizona senators, who previously helped write reform legislation, have taken a wait-and-see attitude, but Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is working with Immigration Committee Chair Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to come up with something. Graham has taken a lot of flack simply for looking for a bipartisan bill. Action is expected to come in the Senate first. The Immigration Committee may have a bill ready for debate as early as the end of January..
For more on the bishops' new initiative see this USCCB press release . For a detailed presentation of the bishops on immigration, see the US-Mexican bishops’ joint statement Strangers No Longer and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s recent Georgetown speech. The cardinal represented the USCCB in testimony before the Senate Immigration Committee.
Pushback in Arizona
Arizona is a major battleground on immigration. It has some of the nastiest legislation and Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s “crime sweeps.” Immigration rights advocates, however, are pushing back. Already they are challenging the restrictive legislation in the courts. Now they are gathering to demonstrate against Sheriff Joe, specifically asking ICE to stop the check of immigration status in his Maricopa County jail (see Arizona Republic).