- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced yesterday that it will “add the voice of the Catholic Church” to the call for major immigration legislation, including a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship for illegal aliens in the United States.

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington, said Catholic parishes and social service agencies see firsthand the results of the current law, including long waits for family reunification and mistreatment of illegal aliens. He added that bishops also are “disturbed with the current public discourse,” which they see as anti-immigrant.

“Because we witness such suffering, it is clear to the bishops of the United States and to agencies that work with us that our immigration system is broken and needs repair. Before we can achieve that goal, however, we must change public attitudes about immigrants,” he said at a press conference in Washington to announce the ?Justice for Immigrants” campaign.

The campaign calls for faster family reunification, a guest-worker program that eventually leads to citizenship, better protections for both immigrant and native-born workers, and a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally.

Mark Franken, executive director of Migration and Refugee Services for the bishops conference, said this approach does not amount to amnesty.

“The bishops’ position on this is more complex and in some ways nuanced,” he said. “There are other people who have waited for years to obtain legal visas, to reunite with families, and so it shouldn’t be an automatic, ?OK, you’re here, you’ve got a document.’ But rather, folks need to come forward and demonstrate they’ve been contributing members of society, they are held in good standing, they have built up equity in this country, they are earning this legalization.”

Cardinal McCarrick said religious teachings justify aiding illegal aliens.

“We go right to the New Testament and say, him or her who is without sin cast the first stone,” he said. “How many of us have not violated some laws, whatever they might have been — either they’re traffic laws or immigration laws or tax laws, something like that.”

The immigration debate has heated up this year in Congress, with the House and Senate preparing for a major battle over broad changes in immigration policy.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, are expected to introduce a major legalization bill tomorrow, and two Arizona Republicans will introduce a companion bill in the House.

President Bush last year announced his own principles for an immigration overhaul, including a guest-worker program.

Cardinal McCarrick said Mr. Bush’s proposal opens a discussion and recognizes the need to address immigration and employment issues, but does not resolve a backlog of families waiting to reunite in the United States.

“It doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t really touch on those family issues,” he said.

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