- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 13, 2002

The U.S. Catholic bishops today will call for a more lenient immigration policy across the U.S.-Mexican border, part of a push to care for a growing Hispanic constituency in the American church.
"Reducing legal immigration between the two nations [does] not make the United States or Mexico more secure" against terrorism, says a joint pastoral letter by the Mexican and U.S. bishops.
"Regardless of their legal status, migrants should be respected," the bishops will argue, repeating their traditional stance. "Often they are subject to punitive law and harsh treatment."
The bishops also are expected to issue a statement today on the moral rightness of a pre-emptive military strike on Iraq, which the bishops opposed a month ago.
Though the United Nations gave Iraq a 30-day ultimatum to disarm, the bishops debated yesterday what stance they should take on the possibility of war if Iraq refuses.
While some suggested the need to promote diplomacy, retired Archbishop of New Orleans Philip M. Hannan argued that given the terror of nuclear bombs and death camps in World War II, the greater good may require a U.S. assault on Saddam Hussein.
"We are in a fluid situation," Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law, who is heading up a potential Iraq statement, said at a news briefing.
He said the government must make "prudential judgments" on the validity of a pre-emptive strike, but the bishops want to promote a "moral framework" for such decisions, such as whether the outcome is worth the human cost of a war.
"My personal question is around that issue of proportionality," Cardinal Law said.
The bishops' immigration statement, "Strangers No More," is likely to be adopted by vote today. It says people "have the right to migrate" just as nations have the right to "control their borders."
The bishops urged a "conversion" of American attitudes, which have swung to suspicion of immigrants after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"This [statement] will make it more difficult for the church with people who don't particularly support immigrants," Washington's Auxiliary Bishop Leonard Olivier said yesterday.
While not endorsing illegal immigration, the U.S. and Mexican bishops said that the U.S. cap on Mexican immigration forces many to sneak in illegally to join family or otherwise be separated from them. "This an unacceptable choice," the bishops said.
As part of the immigration concerns, the U.S. bishops yesterday adopted a plan on "Hispanic ministry" to step up church support for that constituency, which soon will make up a third of the American church.
"How do we minister to what in fact is the predominant Catholic group?" said Bishop Joseph A. Galante of Texas. "They are quickly becoming a majority."
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said evangelical sects have both fairly and "unfairly" recruited Catholic immigrants. "This has reached such a degree of frequency that it has complicated ecumenical relationships," he said.
Protestants often use the Our Lady of Guadalupe image to draw Hispanics.

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