Social Justice: The time has come for immigration reform

By Barbara Budde

Columnist

Politicians of both parties and Christians of every family are all talking about immigration reform. When there is that much unanimity, you know that something good is happening! I can’t explain or even speak to the motivations of politicians, but I can describe what I saw and heard as leaders from many church families gathered in Austin at the end of January.

Christian Churches Together in the USA is a relatively new organization that is striving to bring all Christians together on issues of concern in our world. Our own Bishop Joe Vásquez is a member of this ecumenical group representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is how this group had their meeting in Austin. The topic of immigration was chosen more than a year ago because church leaders recognized its pastoral and human importance to members of their communities. We heard from immigration policy experts, from Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville about the realities on the border and from immigrants themselves. We learned how a broken system has contributed to broken families and to broken lives.

The conference concluded with a statement from Christian Churches Together on comprehensive immigration reform. This broad and diverse group of Christians called for the following:

That there be an opportunity for the 11 million who are here without authorization to have a pathway to earned citizenship.

That priority be given to family reunification in any immigration reform, and especially that family visas not be reduced.

That there be good and appropriate border control and due process protections for immigrants and their families

That our leaders will give attention to the special needs of asylum seekers and refugees as those who are particularly vulnerable.

That we continue to seek long- term solutions to the economic and social causes that are the root causes of unauthorized immigration.

These points closely echo the call that the U.S. Bishops have been making for more than a decade. Now the voices of our brothers and sisters in Christ have joined our bishops in calling on political leaders and on us as people of faith to work together to pass good comprehensive immigration reform.

There is bi-partisan Congressional will to see immigration reform passed. However, we must add our voices in support of good legislation so that our sisters and brothers can experience real reform. A path to citizenship is imperative; otherwise, we leave millions in limbo. We can allow this to be tied to border security, which is important, but we must insist that the path to citizenship be initiated within a specific time frame that is just and reasonable.

One argument I have heard from many is that those who came without proper documentation should "go to the end of the line and do it the right way." What I learned is that there is no real line. Our immigration system is just broken and it must be reformed. It is very important that we pay particular attention to family based immigration reform. Too many families are separated and we need to support their reunification.

The bishops want comprehensive immigration reform, our fellow Christians want immigration reform and politicians of both parties are calling for immigration reform. We can add our voices to make this a historic time in our country. Please call or write your members of Congress asking them to support real and just comprehensive immigration reform during this congress. For more information visit the USCCB department of Migration and Refugee Services at www.usccb.org/mrs or the Justice for Immigrants Campaign at
www.justiceforimmigrants.org.

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