By Kent Ferris
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has created a plan to push for the enactment of immigration reform legislation this year.
“It is our view, and that of others, that the American public, including the Catholic and other faith communities, want a humane and comprehensive solution to problems which beset our immigration system, and they want Congress to address this issue,” said Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, Utah. As chairman of the USCCB Committee on Immigration, he identified the plan’s steps, which include:
• The launch of a nationwide postcard campaign under the Justice for Immigrants campaign, with 1.5 million postcards already ordered;
• The launch of two Web sites, a new Justice for Immigrants Web site with tools for parishes (www.justiceforimmigrants.org), and the National Migration Week Web site, which provides other resources (www.usccb.org/mrs/nmw
• A nationwide action alert asking Congress to enact immigration reform as soon as possible.
What is the experience of the stranger among us that would require such a response?
Individuals and families come to our country for a variety of reasons, but many are compelled to come out of sheer necessity for the basics of life: food, shelter and the desire to provide for one’s family. They do not make these choices lightly, realizing that they may be separated from their families for extended periods of time, that they may risk injury or death in making their journey, and that there is no guarantee of secure employment. Drastic and dire living conditions in their home countries necessitate drastic decisions.
“… [T]he family, even the migrant family and the itinerant family, constitutes the original cell of society which must not be destroyed, but rather defended with courage and patience.” — Pope John Paul II
“Living in a foreign land without effective points of reference generates countless and sometimes serious hardships and difficulties for children, especially those deprived of the support of their family.” — Pope Benedict XVI, World Day of Migrants Message, 2010
Our pope and bishops take their responsibility to impart Catholic social teaching seriously. And as Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, a member of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and the Itinerant notes, this teaching is “…something Catholics cannot dismiss as irrelevant to forming their social consciences on this social policy issue.”
Our diocesan response
Bishop Martin Amos is encouraging us all to take time this month to visit the Web sites. Learn more about the issue of immigration reform. Then, during the first weekend of March, prayerfully consider signing postcards that will be available during Mass asking your representatives and senators to support reform legislation.
It is consistent with our faith to support legislation that keeps immigrant families together, adopts smart and humane enforcement policies, and ensures that immigrants without legal status register with the government and begin a path toward citizenship.
(Kent Ferris is social action director for the Davenport Diocese.)