Bishop Joe Vasquez, interviewed by Shelly Metcalf, Catholic Spirit
Immigration Reform has been a “hot topic” in our country for years and the topic is not going to go away until a real solution and proper legislation is passed. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been urging our government and Congress to act on reforming the immigration laws in our country because they are ineffective. Both the current administration and Congress have admitted that the current immigration laws no longer work.
Because our current immigration laws are no longer effective, they are hurting individuals. The first ones to get hurt are families, who are being separated under the current laws. When someone comes to the U.S. from another country and has children here, those children have rights as American citizens, but their parents, if undocumented, may be deported. Thus children are being separated from their parents or are forced to go back to a country that they do not know. Maybe they have lived here 10 or 15 years. Maybe they don’t even speak the language or know the culture of their own particular country because they have been born here, raised here and have integrated into this society.
Another issue is these types of laws become detrimental to the type of work that immigrants do in the U.S. That is to say, they come here, they do work which sometimes nobody else wants to do, but because they have no protection under the law, they can be easily denounced and reported, they can be threatened, wages can be withheld from them, and they can be mistreated and abused. All of this can happen and often does happen because undocumented immigrants have little or no rights to protect themselves. Immigrants often live in shadows. They stay in the background because they don’t want to be known. They want to be hidden because they are so afraid of being deported and sent back to their countries.
Immigrants often struggle with many hardships just to come to the U.S. so that they can have a better life. Many of them die because of dangerous conditions. In Texas and in the southern U.S., each year many people from Central America and South America travel across the desert and suffer tremendously to make new lives for themselves. Unfortunately, many lose their lives in the process of coming to the U.S. or to other countries. These are horrible and tragic situations. We bishops are saying that it is time for us to change our immigration system, to reform the laws, and to create a system that is more just. At the same time, we must take into consideration that our country must be able to protect its borders and protect her citizens. The majority of the people coming to the U.S. do not wish us any harm. They are not coming as terrorists. They are coming here for one basic reason – to make better lives for themselves and their families and loved ones.
The Catholic Church is asking the community to send the wording below to their U.S. Senators and Representatives asking that they pass just and compassionate immigration reform legislation in the 113th Congress:
I agree with the U.S. Catholic bishops that now is the time to pass just and compassionate immigration reform. I ask that in the 113th Congress you support immigration reform that:
– Provides a path to citizenship for undocumented persons in the country;
– Preserves family unity as a corner-stone of our national immigration system;
– Provides legal paths for low-skilled immigrant workers to come and work in the United States;
– Restores due process protections to our immigration enforcement policies;
– Addresses the root causes (push factors) of migration, such as persecution and economic disparity.
I look forward to monitoring your public position on this vital issue to our nation. Our nation can no longer wait.