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Cardinals visit White House, Hill on immigration reform

By Jerry Filteau
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Several U.S. cardinals had a busy morning in Washington April 28 urging humane and compassionate immigration legislation as the Senate prepared to debate immigration reform.

The U.S. bishops want a "comprehensive reform" that deals compassionately with the millions of undocumented aliens in the United States, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington said in brief remarks at a photo opportunity between meetings on Capitol Hill.

The U.S. bishops have expressed support for many aspects of a compromise bill expected to reach the Senate floor in early May, but they are also concerned about harsh enforcement provisions in the legislation, including expedited removal of illegal aliens along the border and denial of protections to asylum seekers.

Cardinal McCarrick and Cardinals Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles and William H. Keeler of Baltimore started the day with a breakfast meeting on immigration reform with White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove and other White House aides.

Also attending that session was Vincentian Father David M. O'Connell, president of The Catholic University of America.

From the White House Cardinals Mahony and McCarrick went to Capitol Hill to meet with several senators on immigration reform legislation. Following a meeting with Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston joined them and the three prelates met with Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill.

A meeting with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., capped off the cardinals' Hill visit.

At a brief press conference following the meeting with Reid, Cardinal Mahony was asked his views on the proposed immigrant boycott of work and school on May 1, when demonstrations for humane immigration legislation were planned across the country. Activists working on behalf of immigrants were divided over the use of a work-school boycott as a demonstration tactic.

The cardinal said he hoped Los Angeles children would attend school that day to learn about immigration issues and write their legislators, and after school join a march planned in Los Angeles, which was to start at 4 p.m. in MacArthur Park.

During another brief media event before the cardinals' final meeting on the Hill, Frist said he hoped the Senate would be able to craft an immigration bill that would enjoy strong bipartisan support.

One of the key elements in immigration reform that the cardinals and the U.S. bishops have been working for is a program that would provide a path to citizenship for large numbers of undocumented workers already living in the United States.

The compromise bill the Senate will consider allows undocumented workers who have resided in the United States for more than five years to obtain a conditional immigrant visa and eventually permanent residency after fulfilling certain conditions; it sets more stringent rules and conditions for those who have been in the United States less than five years.

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