What Is Our Response as People of Faith
to Immigration Reform?
S. Joyce Quintana, OP
Earlier this year there was a presentation at St. Mary’s Catholic Faith Community in Hales Corners titled: Immigration Reform: a Faith Mandate. This summarizes for me why each of us needs to become involved in the upcoming immigration debate. Our faith is the basis for our action – as it should be for any social justice activity.
Our Catholic faith teaches us that all persons have the right to live in dignity and to achieve a full life. We’re taught that all persons (including immigrants) possess inherent dignity and that all goods of the earth belong to all people. Our Catholic Social Justice also teaches that an individual has the right to find work elsewhere if there is none in his/her country. And we’re also taught that sovereign nations have the right to control its borders. However, nations must recognize they have a stronger obligation to accommodate migration flows.
Our present immigration situation in this country is puzzling to most of us. It’s a complex system fraught with misunderstanding and suspicion. But one thing is clear: the basic problem is the system itself: The law is broken! We need to fix it! The problem is not with the immigrants! For example, one thing needing to be fixed is that there are too few legal channels for immigration under our current system. As a result, each year thousands of individuals cross the border without documentation or they overstay their visitor visas.
What can we do in this situation?
Each one of us needs to learn more about immigration and how the rules have changed since our ancestors came to this country. We need to understand a little more about the entire immigration process. One doesn’t just decide to come to the U.S. and get a Visa overnight which would allow them entrance to our country. The wait for a Visa in Mexico is currently 14 years while the wait for one in the Philippines is 22 years!
How aware are we of the steps immigrants have to take to become legal residents in the U.S. and/or to begin the process toward becoming a citizen? Do we know anything about the costs connected with becoming a citizen? How can we find out?
We can do this by reading, by attending lectures or workshops, by learning from the immigrants themselves about their problems. We can/must call, fax, or write our Congressperson and Senators and ask them to support comprehensive immigration reform.
Ask your Congressperson and Senators to make sure that the following four elements are included:
1) A plan for immigrants already here to regularize their status upon satisfaction of reasonable criteria and pursue an option to become permanent residents and, perhaps, U.S. citizens. (Path to Citizenship)
2) Reforms in our family-based system to significantly reduce waiting time for separated families to be reunited. (Promotion of Family Unity)
3) The creation of legal avenues for workers and their families who wish to migrate to the U.S. to enter our country and work in a safe, legal, and orderly manner with their rights fully protected. (Worker Protections)
4) Border protection policies that are consistent with humanitarian values and with the need to treat all individuals with respect – while still allowing the authorities to carry out their critical task of identifying and preventing entry of terrorists and criminals. (Border Security)
Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Illinois introduced a bill in the House of Representatives in December 2009. Urge your Congressperson to support this bill. As of this date, no HR number has been assigned to the bill, but it's known as “CIR ASAP” or Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009.
Justice for Immigrants: http://www.justiceforimmigrants.org/
Interfaith Immigration Coalition Platform: http://presbyterian.typepad.com/peacemaking/2009/01/interfaith-platform-on-humane-immigration-reform.html
National Immigration Forum: http://www.immigrationforum.org/
The Advocates for Human Rights: http://www.energyofanation.org/Curriculum.html
Suggested reading material:
Close to Slavery: Guestwork Programs in the U.S. You can request a copy from the Southern Poverty Law Center at 334-956-8200
Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope **
Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity **
** Both are publications of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C.