When I was a seminarian I was sent to work at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Immigration Office, an arm of Catholic Charities. Every week I helped interview and translate conversations with people who were in process to attain legal status in our country.
What was surprising to me was that roughly half of those who passed through our doors were non-Hispanic. A large percentage of people who were seeking regularization of their status were Irish! I recall an Irish priest who after many years of serving faithfully in the Archdiocese had come forward to begin the process of citizenship. I’m certain no one in his parish knew.
This past month something remarkable happened. A bi-partisan committee of senators came together and worked out a first good draft of how the nation might move constructively with the dilemma of so many undocumented persons. The Church for long years has been concerned about how to find a solution that would ensure the sovereignty of the nation and its borders, at the same time encouraging citizenship of those here and not dividing families. The Bishops along with everyone agree that those who are criminals should not be permitted in our country.
Archbishop Gomez chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration said that the immigration-reform principles announced by eight senators on January 28 are an “important first step” towards comprehensive immigration reform.
“It is vital that the framework includes a path to citizenship, so that undocumented immigrants can come out of the shadows and into the light and have a chance to become Americans,” Archbishop Gomez said.
The four principles announced by the bipartisan group of senators are “creating a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants already here that is contingent upon securing the border and combating visa overstays”; “improving our legal immigration system and attracting the world’s best and brightest”; “strong employment verification”; and “admitting new workers and protecting workers’ rights.”
Let’s hope that a clear direction and policy will be put in place that will answer if possible most concerns. I have seen good people cooperating with the government’s process, lingering for years without an answer; families that have been divided and a parent deported. Our borders must be protected and they must mean something. If Democrats and Republicans can come to one mind on this I have hope!
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