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Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform 2005

In early May 2005, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington and Bishop James Tamayo of Laredo held a news conference announcing the beginning a campaign by the U. S. Catholic Bishops and 20 Catholic organizations for just immigration reform, called Justice for Immigrants: A Journey of Hope. The Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform.

The goals of the multi-year campaign for comprehensive immigration reform are the following:

– to educate Catholics and others of good will about the benefits of immigration and the benefits to the nation.

– to strengthen public opinion about the positive contributions of immigrants.

– to advocate for just immigration laws which promote legal status and legal pathways for migrant workers and their families.

– to organize Catholic legal service networks to assist immigrants to access the benefits of the reforms.

One of the goals of the campaign is to try to change laws “so that immigrants can support their families in dignity, families can remain united, and the human rights of all are respected,” Cardinal McCarrick stated. “However, before we can change our laws we must also change attitudes, including those of many of our own flock,” the Cardinal said.

Cardinal McCarrick said the U.S. Bishops have grown increasingly concerned with the current public discourse sur-rounding immigrants, in which newcomers are characterized as a threat to the nation and not a benefit. “Anti-immigrant fervor on TV and radio shows, citizens attempting to enforce immi-gration laws, and, most disturbingly, the enactment of restrictive immigration laws are evidence of this negative public environment,” the Cardinal said.

“We are here today to add the voice of the Church to the public discourse and to remind Catholics, as well as all Americans, that we are, and should remain, a nation of immigrants,” Cardinal McCarrick stated.

“We acknowledge that the current negative environment towards immigrants is due, in part, to the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, which have had a profound impact on our nation,” the Cardinal said. “Let us not give into the temptation to scapegoat all immigrants who come to our land-and who contribute their God-given talent to our communities-because of the actions of a few. It is my belief, and that of my brother bishops, that our nation can meet the challenge of ensuring national security without closing America’s door to the oppressed and downtrodden,” Cardinal McCarrick said.

The Cardinal said the Catholic Church has a deep stake in im-migration reform because, like the nation itself, it is ethnically, socially and culturally diverse. “Regardless of race, heritage, or national origin, we are one family under God,” he said.

Another participant at the news conference, Bishop James A. Tamayo of the Diocese of Laredo said his area on the U.S.-Mexico border provides daily witness to the consequences of a broken immigration system.

“Our experience on the border is 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; communities are divided; and racist and xenophobic attitudes remain,” he said.

“From my perspective on the border,” Bishop Tamayo continued, “I welcome the Justice for Immigrants campaign because Catholics are involved in all aspects of the migration phenomenon…But often mem-bers of our faith work at cross purposes or against each other, leading to division and rancor in local communities and in our parishes. With education and through prayer, we hope, through the Campaign, to bring Catholics of differing perspec-tives together to find a human solution to our immigration crisis.”

“We are also launching the Justice for Immigrants campaign because the U.S. Bishops are united in the view that the status quo is unacceptable and that comprehensive immigration reform is needed,” Bishop Tamayo said. “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 tolerate the death of human beings in the desert.”

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXV, No. 5, July-August 2005.