Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We are watching with great interest and with prayers as federal immigration policy changes for those seeking to enter our country and receive political asylum. Our current president, Joe Biden, and the previous president, Donald Trump, had used Title 42 for the last three years to limit entry into the country based on the health threat that COVID-19 posed. As the pandemic has receded that policy is ending, leading to a lot of speculation and worry about what will happen at the border. Let us keep in our prayers these brothers and sisters who are fleeing unimaginable situations in their home countries to seek survival and a better life for themselves and their children. Let us also pray for all of those at the different levels of law enforcement who will attempt to manage the influx of desperate human beings while maintaining safety and order. It is a very difficult task, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
The policy enacted by the Biden Administration to replace Title 42 appears to have some improvements but also some continued areas of concern as it relates to acknowledging the human dignity and human rights of our immigrant brothers and sisters. More troublesome is the recently proposed “Secure the Border Act of 2023” that would remove many important humanitarian protections in our immigration laws, putting unaccompanied children and other vulnerable populations in grave danger. I urge Catholics and all people of goodwill to ask their elected representative to oppose this bill – H.R. 2.
In the big picture, using piecemeal bills and policies like these is like trying to treat a serious fracture with a bandage. A more substantial and lasting change in policy is needed to bring healing. My brother bishops of the United States and I have long called for what we call Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). The basic tenets of CIR espoused by our U.S. Church are:
- A broad-based legalization (permanent residency) of the undocumented of all nationalities
- Reform of our family-based immigration system to allow family members to reunite with loved ones in the United States
- Reform of the employment-based immigration system to provide legal pathways for migrants to come and work in a safe, humane and orderly manner
- Abandonment of the border “blockade” enforcement strategy
- Restoration of due process protections for immigrants.
- Addressing the root causes of migration with the governments of countries of origin
These ideas are not new. They first surfaced in “Strangers No Longer,” the 2003 Pastoral Letter of the U.S. Bishops and the Episcopal Conference of Mexico. Over these past 20 years much work has been done by our Church to advocate for CIR amongst our federal elected leaders. Our Diocese, under the leadership of Bishop Barnes when he chaired the U.S. Bishop’s Committee on Migration and Refugee Services, was a big part of that. “Strangers No Longer” and subsequent Church statements make clear that we are not advocating for open borders and that we respect the right of a sovereign nation to secure its borders. The reality is that if comprehensive immigration reform is enacted, the enforcement of the law at the border will become easier and more effective.
Because of our proximity to the southern border, our Diocese has and continues to experience the human realities of the immigration crisis. Through our “Operation Bienvenida” ministry we have received thousands of people seeking asylum in the United States, and we have interacted with government entities like the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the California Border Patrol to align our work where it is most needed. We know that the system is broken and needs reform. We continue to advocate passionately for comprehensive reform because we know that lives are literally hanging in the balance. To us, this is not about quotas, or petitions or bills; it is about human beings who are created in the image and likeness of God, just the same as you and I.
So, as we watch this latest patchwork attempt to fix our immigration system, let us raise our voices once again in support of a broader and more lasting solution - comprehensive immigration reform. Only then will the true healing begin.
In Christ’s Love,
Bishop Alberto Rojas