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Bishops' Statement 2005-03-17: Bishop Farrell to Congress on Immigration

BIshop Kevin Farrell
Auxiliary Bishop of Washington D.C.
Member, USCCB Committee on Migration
March 17, 2005

Good afternoon.

I am Bishop Kevin Farrell, auxiliary bishop of Washington, D.C., and member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration. I am here today to speak about the need for changes in our nations immigration laws from the perspective of the Catholic Church in the United States.

From the viewpoint of the U.S. bishops, it has been apparent for several years that our immigration system is broken and badly in need of repair. The U.S. Bishops are united in the view that migration is beneficial to our nation--- economically, socially, and culturally. The strength of our nation comes from its diversity and from the hard work and contributions of immigrants who have come to our shores over the past two hundred years. It is our identity and our soul.

As a universal church, we experience the poverty beyond our borders which drive persons to seek a better life. Here in our own nation, we witness the human consequences of a broken immigration system every dayin our parishes, schools, hospitals and health-care centers, and social service programs around the country.

Despite our nations proud history of immigration, today we find that aspects of the migrant experience are far from the vision of the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed: many who seek to migrate are suffering, and, in some cases, tragically dying; human rights are abused; families are kept apart; and racist and xenophobic attitudes remain.

We are united here today in the view that the status quo is unacceptable and that we must change our immigration laws so that migrants and their families may enter our nation in a safe, orderly, legal, and humane manner. We can no longer accept a situation in which some public officials and members of our communities scapegoat immigrants at the same time our nation benefits from their labor. We can no longer accept a situation in which human beings are exploited and abused.

As the presidents of the United States and Mexico prepare to meet next week, and as Congress prepares to debate the immigration issue, our nation has a unique opportunity to repair a broken system. In order to build a system which serves the best interests of our nation and protects the basic human rights of those who migrate, we must enact laws which address all aspects of the U.S. legal immigration system.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops supports immigration reform which includes a program for the undocumented to obtain permanent residency; changes in our family immigration system to reduce waiting times for family reunification, a bedrock principle of our immigration system, and a worker program which includes labor protections and enforcement mechanisms which uphold the basic rights of both foreign and U.S. workers. We also support initiatives which address the root causes of migration, so that migrants may remain at home to support their families.

We urge President Bush and Congress to work expeditiously toward the enactment of immigration legislation consistent with these principles.

We stand at a crucial time in our history. As our national leaders consider how to ensure our national security in a time of threat, we must remain mindful of our national identity as a nation of immigrants. Enactment of immigration reform which promotes legal entry and legal status would help ensure our security without forsaking our heritage.

Thank you.

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