Justice for Immigrants:
The Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform
In June 2004, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration and The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, INC. (CLINIC) Board of Directors resolved to make comprehensive immigration reform, with special emphasis on legalization, a major public policy priority within the Church. Many other national Catholic institutions have also made legalization a policy priority.
As part of the Church’s response, a diverse group of Catholic organizations with national networks have decided to join the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Justice for Immigrants: A Journey of Hope campaign designed to unite and mobilize a growing network of Catholic institutions, individuals, and other persons of good faith in support of a broad legalization program and comprehensive immigration reform. Its goal will be to maximize the Church’s influence on this issue, consistent with the immigration reform principles enunciated in the bishops’ pastoral letter.
The Campaign’s primary objectives are:
- To educate the public, especially the Catholic community, including Catholic public officials, about Church teaching on migration and immigrants;
- To create political will for positive immigration reform;
- To enact legislative and administrative reforms based on the principles articulated by the bishops; and
- To organize Catholic networks to assist qualified immigrants obtain the benefits of the reforms.
In January 2003, the U.S. and Mexican Catholic bishops issued a joint pastoral letter entitled “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope.” The bishops called for a “globalization of solidarity” and an overhaul of the U.S. immigration system. In the pastoral letter, the U.S. and Mexican bishops outlined several criteria for the reform of the U.S. immigration system, including the following:
- A broad based legalization (permanent residency) of the undocumented of all nationalities;
- Reform of our family-based immigration system to allow family members to reunite with loved ones in the United States;
- Reform of the employment-based immigration system to provide legal pathways for migrants to come and work in a safe, humane, and orderly manner, and;
- Abandonment of the border “blockade” enforcement strategy.
- Restoration of due process protections for immigrants.
Additionally, the bishops recognize that the conditions that compel people to leave their homes out of desperation and lack of opportunities to provide for themselves and their families, must be addressed if an effective and comprehensive response to migration is to be achieved. Therefore, the Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform will work closely with the “Catholic Campaign Against Global Poverty,” initiated by the USCCB Office of International Justice and Peace and Catholic Relief Services. That Campaign aims to reduce poverty through trade, aid and debt reforms. The Immigration Reform and Global Poverty campaigns are integrally related in that one addresses the rights and needs of migrants in the U.S., while the other addresses the rights and needs of persons living in their native countries.
The Campaign aims to reach beyond the networks of the participating national agencies, and to enlist the support of Catholic individuals and institutions in dioceses throughout the country.
“It’s important, for people to meet immigrants to see the human story of what they encounter, to see the drive and the hope and the dreams that many immigrants have, and to understand the reasons why people come here in the first place, arriving here as refugees or seeking political asylum.” – Father. Joe Muth, pastor of St. Matthew, Northwood and Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Baltimore parishioners are from more than 40 countries.