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US Bishops call for comprehensive immigration reform

(Vatican Radio) In the United States, a senior member of the House of Representatives has said there is no guarantee the chamber will pass comprehensive immigration legislation this year or that a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal residents would be part of the effort.

A bipartisan plan for immigration reform – which enjoys widespread support – was proposed last week in the nation’s Senate.

Reform of U.S. policy on immigration has been a priority for the nation’s Bishops. In a press conference on Monday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), said “now is the time” to fix the nation’s broken immigration system.

Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, chair of the USCCB Communications Committee, also took part in the press conference. He spoke with Vatican Radio about the principles that should inform immigration reform. “What the bishops are looking for, and the principles that we are seeking to see bolstered and protected and used are really the sanctity of human life – that these are human beings that we are talking about, and that we have to provide a system for them to be safe and a just system, a workable system to protect them in the very dangerous process of immigration.”

Bishop Wester said the Bishops hoped immigration reform would: provide a path to citizenship for the undocumented; help families stay together; ensure that immigrants would not be exploited and that their rights would be protected; and that provision would be made that “lives will not be lost in the desert” as immigrants make their way to the United States. “So these are some of the things that we are looking for in this new bill,” he said.

Bishop Wester also said the Bishops hoped that immigration reform would “address the root causes . . . the push factors of immigration,” and ask “how can the United States work with other countries to eliminate the need for people to immigrate in the first place if they would rather stay home.”

One of the Bishops’ concerns, said Bishop Wester, was to find a balance between securing the border and caring for immigrants. “We know that enforcement only doesn’t work,” he said, “so we’re calling for our country not to link enforcement and humane provisions.” Although the government has a right, and even a duty to secure the border, he said it was important that strategies to achieve border security should not be “linked to a path to status and citizenship.” The different elements of immigration reform, he said, should each be moved forward “on their own merits.”

Bishop Wester emphasised the Bishops’ primary concerns: “We’re hoping that the focus can always be on the family, on the sanctity of human life, on the dignity of the immigrant and treating people with respect.”

Listen to the interview of Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City with Christopher Wells: RealAudioMP3