Get Behind President Obama and Executive Action for Immigration Reform

A woman holds a sign during an immigration rally in front of the White House, Nov. 19 (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn).

The possibility of an executive order by President Obama to prevent deportation of many undocumented persons while the executive order is in effect is a cause for hope. Among the most sympathetic undocumented persons are students educated in the United States and you cannot help but cheer for them. At the same time, what is frightening is the suggestion that while these children may get relief from deportation, their undocumented parents may not.

Those who argue for support of families might want to consider this.


Do children, both adults and minors, need their parents? Look around.

With fear of stating the obvious, children need their parents, and parents sustain even their adult offspring in many ways. They offer help with childcare, for example, and as grandparents they have a unique bond with grandchildren. They pass on the faith and ethnic traditions that root the younger generations. They stand as role models of self-sacrifice in a consumerist and often me-first society.

Catholics of all stripes, liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican, know family issues are important. One hopes they will stand behind President Obama’s efforts with proposed executive orders and other efforts to fix the broken immigration system and hold families together. It is a simple goal with great ramifications and it is one that Catholics need to get behind.

Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo of Seattle, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, and Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange, California, chair of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., outlined a wise course of action in a September 9 letter to Jeh Johnson, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Among the requests made in the letter, the bishops ask that the government:

Protect immigrants with strong community ties and equities in the U.S. who have lived in the U.S. for ten years or longer. “They already have built equities in our communities and have contributed our economy and social fabric,” the bishops said. “Providing them protection from deportation would permit them to come out of the shadows and fully contribute to our society as they get processed through the legal system.”

Help parents of U.S. citizens. Separating parents from their U.S. born children is “heart-wrenching,” the bishops said. Parents face the decision “to leave their children in the United States with families or friends, knowing they will not see them for a long time, or take them to a country they do not know.” These children are “the future leaders of our country,” the bishops wrote.  Their parents “have no doubt…raised a family, bought homes, and started businesses—which would warrant consideration and the use of discretion in their removal.”

Support parents of children who in 2012 were awarded deferred action as children who entered the United States with their parents as minors. Their parents should not be separated from their children as the offspring achieve the American dream of high school and college diplomas and stand ready to give back to the country that educated them.  

Deal with the backlog of visa requests. We already have people living in the United States who have been approved for family based and employment based visas. How difficult can it be to unclog the visa pipeline?

Do not count spouses and children when deciding the number of persons who can be included in petitions for families seeking visas. The bishops urged an approach that facilitates families being “reunited in a more expeditious manner” than we have now.

Expand the number of persons who can be awarded visas if they can “prove extreme hardship to their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or children,” the bishops said.

Consider individuals who have been granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) “to have been ‘inspected and admitted’ to the United States so that they may, if otherwise eligible, apply to adjust their status to that of lawful permanent resident,” the bishops said. “Many TPS grantees are long-term residents of the United States and have established roots in their communities including families and lawful employment.”

Mary Ann Walsh, R.S.M., is a member of the Northeast Community of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and U.S. Church Correspondent for America Magazine.

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Joshua DeCuir
4 years 4 months ago
So there is no room for considerations of whether or not the President's action is the correct means for accomplishing this? In other words, the ends justify the means?
Tim Huegerich
4 years 4 months ago
Obviously, ends don't justify evil means, but what is it that you object to about the means? Scholars seem to agree that this is legal (e.g. Do you disagree or do you have some other objection to the means?
Joshua DeCuir
4 years 4 months ago
I would refer you to Ross Douthat's recent columns & blog posts about the misgivings of this act of executive authority. Legal and prudent are two entirely different things. It has long been established that the judiciary will give the executive branch wide latitude in its enforcement discretion. That does that mean a particular action is wise or useful. Polling shows that the country is deeply divided over immigration, & in face of that division, inaction has been politically wise. I would also note that President Obama could have acted on immigration when he had large Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. He did not act then, so it seems craven to now attack Congressional inaction. This is a cynical act, not one inspiring "hope." I would also like to see Catholic supporters of this policy & its means of enactment sketch out what they see as the legitimate limits of immigration policy. Some comments by the USCCB make it sound as though any legal regulation of immigration is immoral. Do the bishops support an unregulated, totally open border? If not, what legitimate limitations can be imposed?
J Cosgrove
4 years 4 months ago
A headline from the Washington Post today
Flashback: Barack Obama on the “biggest problems we’re facing”
The first paragraph
Senator Barack Obama, 2008: “The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all. And that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m president of the United States of America.”
Somebody once said that anything Obama says has an expiration date on it. That is why he cannot lie about lying because his lies/statements no longer apply.


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