September 27, 2013

Bishops’ proposal outlines plan for comprehensive immigration reform

Criterion staff report

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) opposes “enforcement only” immigration policies and supports comprehensive immigration reform.

In Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope, the bishops outlined the elements of their proposal for comprehensive immigration reform, including these six points:

  1. Earned legalization. An earned legalization program would allow foreign nationals of good moral character who are living in the United States to apply to adjust their status to obtain lawful permanent residence. Such a program would create an eventual path to citizenship, requiring applicants to complete and pass background checks, pay a fine, and establish eligibility for resident status to participate in the program.
  2. Future worker program. A worker program to permit foreign-born workers to enter the country safely and legally would help reduce illegal immigration and the loss of life in the American desert. Any program should include workplace protections, living wage levels, safeguards against the displacement of U.S. workers, and family unity.
  3. Family-based immigration reform. It currently takes years for family members to be reunited through the family-based legal immigration system. This leads to family breakdown and, in some instances, illegal immigration. Changes in family-based immigration should be made to increase the number of family visas available, and reduce family reunification waiting times.
  4. Restoration of due process rights. Due process rights taken away by the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act should be restored.
  5. Addressing root causes. Congress should examine the root causes of migration, such as underdevelopment and poverty in sending countries, and seek long-term solutions. The antidote to the problem of illegal immigration is sustainable economic development in sending countries.
  6. Enforcement. The U.S. Catholic Bishops accept the legitimate role of the U.S. government in intercepting unauthorized migrants who travel to the United States. The bishops also believe that by increasing lawful means for migrants to enter, live and work in the United States, law enforcement will be better able to focus upon those who truly threaten public safety: drug and human traffickers, smugglers and would-be terrorists. Any enforcement measures must be targeted, proportional and humane.

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Related: As Congress nears possible immigration vote, Church supports fixing system hurting millions

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