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Bishops Respond to Latest Effort
Proposed immigration bill stirs
calls for prayer and justice
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Bishops in various parts of the country joined
the chorus of reactions to the preliminary version of a comprehensive
immigration bill set to be considered before the Senate takes a weeklong
break for Memorial Day.
Debate in the Senate opened May 21 even before the legislation designed
by a bipartisan negotiating team was turned into bill form and introduced.
A vote on the bill could be taken as soon as May 24, or debate could
extend into June.
Bishop Gerald R. Barnes of San Bernardino, Calif., chairman of the
bishops' Committee on Migration, said in a May 17 statement that
the important considerations for the bill include that it "is workable
and includes family unity and a fair and realistic path to citizenship,
a new worker program which provides participants a meaningful opportunity
to obtain permanent residency, and the preservation of family unity
as an integral part of the U.S. immigration system."
Leaders of Catholic Charities USA said they would also push for a
bill that "sustains and reunites families, promotes the security
of the nation ... (and) improves the economic prospects, health,
labor protections and stability of all U.S. residents, including
newcomers," among other criteria.
Catholic Charities joined the USCCB in saying the compromise bill
is a good starting point, albeit not the optimal approach.
"As the compromise is currently written, we are very concerned about
provisions that could lead to separating families and disrupting
family life," said a statement from Father Larry Snyder, president
of Catholic Charities USA.
In several places the church also planned prayer activities for "a
just and equitable immigration reform bill," as the Justice for Immigrants
campaign described their effort.
The senators who are considering immigration reform "need our prayers," said
a statement from Sister Jane Burke, a School Sister of Notre Dame
who heads the U.S. bishops' Justice for Immigrants campaign. "Our
voices are essential to the passage of this crucial legislation.
There are many ways to raise our voices but two in particular are
called for at this moment -- advocacy and prayer."
She asked people across the country to join a "Million Prayers Initiative" between
May 20 and 26, the week before Pentecost.
Information about the campaign, including a special prayer, can be
found at the Web site
The campaign spells out five principles for immigration reform:
-- To make family a priority in immigration law.
-- To insist that worker programs contain protection for U.S. citizen
and migrant workers.
-- To allow for earned legalization for undocumented immigrants.
-- To restore due process protections for immigrants.
-- To respond to the economic, political and social root causes of
In California, parishes and religious communities in East Los Angeles
held a Mass May 16 at Resurrection Church to pray for legislators "who
will guide the destinies of millions of hardworking immigrants and
their families, hoping that just and humane comprehensive immigration
reform legislation will be passed this year."
Seattle Archbishop Alex J. Brunett was to celebrate a Mass for immigrants
May 26 at St. Mary Church in Seattle.
"The news of an agreement to resolve the impasse on immigration reform
is welcome," said Archbishop Brunett in a May 18 statement. "But
the real test of the plan will be its protection of basic rights."
Archbishop Brunett also sent priests a set of guidelines for assisting
immigrants, particularly those who lack legal immigration status.
The guidelines advise parishes to help undocumented immigrants in
a variety of ways, including providing bail to people facing deportation
in order to reunite families; aiding family members separated by
deportation; or otherwise assisting people dealing with the immigration
"We support the enforcement of our laws," Archbishop Brunett said. "But
while we do not support illegal immigration, the Archdiocese of Seattle
has a long-standing tradition of outreach to immigrants and refugees.
It is integral to our faith and teaching that we provide food, shelter
and material assistance to those in need."
are very concerned about provisions that could lead to separating
families and disrupting family life," said
a statement from Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities
Read Today's NewsWire on Immigration Issues.
Make a Bad Bill Better
Read a critique of the Immigration bill from the New York Times