Conference of Catholic Bishops Asks Obama, Congress to Pass Immigration Reform

Obamas appearance at Notre Dame in May drew criticism from the bishops. (Photo: ND Office of News and Information.)

Obama's appearance at Notre Dame in May drew criticism from the bishops. (Photo: ND Office of News and Information.)

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called Thursday on President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders to pass comprehensive immigration reform, saying that the system “requires repair” and that immigrant “suffering should not continue.”

In San Antonio this week for their annual spring meeting, the bishops said in a statement by their president, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, that immigration is a “humanitarian issue” and U.S. society should not “tolerate a status quo that perpetuates a permanent underclass of persons and benefits from their labor without offering them legal protections.”

The statement is not surprising. Feet in 2 Worlds has reported on several occasions about Catholic bishops’ support –and activism– for immigration reform. George himself appealed publicly to Obama in March to end raids against undocumented immigrants and to push immigration reform forward.

As USA Today’s Faith and Reason blogger Cathy Lynn Grossman pointed out, after the bishops criticized the president on abortion, this is an issue where both sides can work together.

Just last month, there was an uproar when Obama gave the commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame, the country’s most prestigious Roman Catholic school.

Back then, the Conference that this week called for working together with Obama stated that Catholic schools should not give awards or platforms to those who “act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles,” The Associated Press reported.

Now, Grossman writes, the religious leaders are “offering their elbow grease … to push for comprehensive reform in 2009.

“It’s one of the areas both the church and the administration call top priorities,” she says.

In his statement Thursday, Cardinal George said it “has been clear for years that the United States immigration system requires repair and that reform legislation should not be delayed.”

We urge respect and observance of all just laws, and we do not approve or encourage the illegal entry of anyone into our country.

From a humanitarian perspective, however, our fellow human beings, who migrate to support their families, continue to suffer at the hands of immigration policies that separate them from family members and drive them into remote parts of the American desert, sometimes to their deaths. This suffering should not continue.

Now is the time to address this pressing humanitarian issue which affects so many lives and undermines basic human dignity. Our society should no longer tolerate a status quo that perpetuates a permanent underclass of persons and benefits from their labor without offering them legal protections.

As a moral matter, we must resolve the legal status of those who are here without proper documentation so that they can fully contribute their talents to our nation’s economic, social and spiritual well being.

[ Read full text of statement here ]

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