As Pope Benedict continues his pastoral visit to Mexico, bishops in the US are renewing their call for Congress to take charge on immigration reform in light of the severe and inhumane laws that are being passed at the state and local level. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles wrote a letter to Speaker John Boehner reiterating their support for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level. From a US Conference of Catholic Bishops statement:
“Passage of immigration reform is more important now than ever, as state laws and local enforcement initiatives are filling the policy vacuum left by Congress,” the bishops wrote in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Minority Leaders of both chambers. “This has created a patchwork of laws and policies throughout the country which has led to discord in our communities.”
Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Gomez expressed concern over the impact that state and local initiatives are having on immigrant families, which become separated because of these policies.
“Children are often the innocent victims of these policies, which leave them without parents and with less opportunity to live a full and productive life in their home country, the United States.”
A few days ago I wrote about the increasingly heated rhetoric GOP candidates are employing against immigration reform, and how this may lead to historic waves of support for President Obama among Latino voters in November. From Busted Halo:
The Republican Party may have a Latino problem on its hands. The remaining candidates seeking the party’s nomination have taken an unusually harsh tone regarding immigration, and the two Catholic candidates are at odds with their Church about the rights of migrant people. Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney has moved to the far right on immigration, and Latino voters are responding by falling in line behind President Barack Obama. Understanding what the Catholic Church teaches on immigration, and how those teachings might influence crucial Latino communities, may give the GOP nominee a reason to reconsider the harsh rhetoric.
As a Catholic, fair and humane immigration laws are dear to my heart:
Though I identify as a white, non-Hispanic person, immigration excites me because my identity as a Catholic carries with it a rich history of immigration and support for immigrant communities. Like many Catholics in the United States, I trace my roots to a variety of European nations, including Ireland, Scotland, and Germany. Yet many of my ancestors were Catholic (though there are a few Calvinists thrown in just to temper my personality a bit). When my great-grandparents left their homes for new lives here, they faced hostility and xenophobia on these shores. The Church provided a support network that offered some hope and respite from the gruel of daily life. In time, this wave of Catholic immigrants assimilated into American life, culminating perhaps with the election of John F. Kennedy to the presidency, a historic moment for Catholic immigrants in the United States.
Today, the Church is an important voice for new communities of immigrants, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. Though there are some fractures even within our Church, Catholic leaders have been at the forefront of demanding respect and hospitality for both legal immigrants and undocumented people.