America’s Catholic bishops on Wednesday called on the Bush administration to stop raiding businesses suspected of hiring illegal immigrants.
Five bishops representing the 433-member U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said workplace immigration raids are “unacceptable in a civilized society.”
“We do not question the right and duty of our government to enforce immigration laws,” said Utah Bishop John C. Wester, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops committee on migration. “We do question whether work-site enforcement raids, involving hundreds of law enforcement officials using weapons, are effective and most importantly, humane.
“It is our view that the answer is no.”
The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency over the past 15 months has increased raids on workplaces suspected of hiring illegal immigrants.
The bishops cited raids at a textile plant in New Bedford, Mass., and at meatpacking and electric transformer plants in Mississippi as particularly objectionable.
“What these actions have accomplished, sadly, are the separation of U.S.-citizen children from their parents, the dislocation and disruption of immigrant communities and the victimization of U.S. permanent residents and citizens, including children,” Bishop Wester said.
The statement is the culmination of frequent complaints by several bishops about the effects of the raids on their flocks.
After a May 12 raid and 389 arrests of mostly Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants at the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, Dubuque Archbishop James Hanus took part in a protest rally of 1,000 people.
The archbishop also released a May 22 statement calling the raids “a state of terror” and calling for comprehensive immigration reform.
On Aug. 21, Providence, R.I., Bishop Thomas J. Tobin and 15 of his priests released a statement urging the local ICE office to stop the raids and called on Catholic employees of ICE to not take part.
“I agree with Bishop Tobin,” said Bishop Wester, whose diocese is 70 percent Hispanic. “In a raid, there are guns involved and weapons. It can be a very intimidating and fearful event.”
“Work-site enforcement raids not only undermine basic human dignity and family unity, they pit human beings against each other in a violent and frightening way,” said Bishop James A. Tamayo of Laredo, Texas, said at Wednesday’s USCCB press conference. “The vast majority of immigrants are not criminals. They are simply attempting to work and support their families.”