By Bishop Rutilio J. del Riego
The new year has brought renewed hope for our immigrant brothers and sisters who have suffered under current federal laws in this area. Perhaps recognizing the signs of the most recent presidential election, policymakers in Washington D.C. have declared that comprehensive reform of the U.S. immigration system is a top priority in 2013 and they have, indeed, begun to lay out the principles of a proposed reform package. Whether or not this is politically motivated should not be our chief concern.
This is a great moment of opportunity to address a problem that has divided families, nullified opportunities for youth and young adults, and deprived many of the dignity that God has given every human person. For decades, the Bishops of the United States have been a consistent voice for comprehensive immigration reform and now we look forward to joining in the dialogue with elected leaders and stakeholders.
As we have done in the past, it is important for the faithful of our diocese to let federal leaders know how important it is that they continue forward and pass comprehensive reform. Just because reform seems more politically palatable, it is no time to let up in our public advocacy. This process is sure to be contentious, as it has been in the past, so we must make our voices heard clearly. This is how we live our diocesan vision to impact society with the Gospel, so that people’s lives are filled with hope!
Several of the reform principles put forth by the bipartisan group of U.S. Senators and later supported by President Obama are also supported by the Church, including a path to citizenship for those in our country without documentation; protection and enhancement of a family-based immigration system; a program for low-skilled migrants to enter the country and work legally; border security that is safe and humane, and addressing the future flow of immigrants to the United States.
This does not include all of the reform principles outlined by the Bishops of the United States, and there may be elements of the federal reform package that the Church does not support. But let us not lose sight of the fact that the apparent consensus that the time has come for comprehensive reform is a significant progression and true blessing from God.
Let us continue to be a voice of compassion and justice on behalf of the immigrant as we greet this moment of progress. And let us pray for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas and protector of the poor and the migrant, that the change we have sought will finally come to pass.