As the House of Representatives begins debate on immigration reform, urged on by Senate leaders including Mitch McConnel, more than 90 Catholic university presidents were joined by dozens of academics in a letter to every Catholic member of the House of Representatives, including House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, urging the passage of immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.
They wrote: "You face a complex issue that defies easy solutions and narrow partisan agendas. The United States is a nation of laws. It is also a nation built by immigrants. Our faith tradition rejects false choices between freedom and responsibility, individual rights and collective obligations. We urge you to reject the false choices and divisive rhetoric that have too often characterized this debate. Protecting our borders and creating an earned path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in this country are not competing interests."
Noting that politicians were facing "intense political pressure from powerful interest groups," the academics urged Catholic politicians to "draw wisdom and moral courage from our shared faith tradition."
"Catholic teaching values the human dignity and worth of all immigrants, regardless of legal status," they said. "We remind you that no human being made in the image of God is illegal. The Vatican’s Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church warns against the exploitation of immigrant workers and says 'immigrants are to be received as persons and helped, together with their families, to become a part of societal life.' We are part of an immigrant church in an immigrant nation." The letter signatories included Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., President, Boston College; Rev. Michael J. Sheeran, S.J., President, Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities; Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., President, Fordham University; Mary E. Lyons, President, University of San Diego; Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, S.J., President, Loyola University Chicago; and Rev. Drew Christiansen, S.J., former Editor in Chief of America and a Visiting Scholar at Boston College.
The academics added: "As Catholics engaged in public service, you have a serious responsibility to consider the moral dimensions of policy decisions. Our immigration system is so deeply flawed, and in such urgent need of repair, that inaction is unacceptable. As Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, said last month:
"Each day in our parishes, social service programs, hospitals, and schools we witness the human consequences of a broken immigration system. Families are separated, migrant workers are exploited, and our fellow human beings die in the desert. Without positive change to our immigration laws, we cannot help our brothers and sisters. Simply put, the status quo is morally unacceptable. This suffering must end."Read the complete letter here.
Speaking in a series of interviews with Spanish language television station yesterday, President Barack Obama appears to have given up any hope that an immigration overhaul can be achieved by his August deadline. The president said he was hopeful a bill could be finalized this fall and reiterated his insistence that any legislation include a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people in the U.S. without documentation. “It does not make sense to me, if we’re going to make this once-in-a-generation effort to finally fix this system, to leave the status of 11 million people or so unresolved,” he said.