A group of Catholic leaders urged fellow Catholics in Congress to set aside "partisan bickering" and support the U.S. bishops' efforts on behalf of a comprehensive immigration reform, calling it a sanctity of life issue and an important step in building a culture of life.
"Our nation's inhumane and flawed immigration policies leave migrant women, children and families abandoned by the side of the road," the group said in a letter released Jan. 20, two days before the anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
Among the more than 100 signers of the letter were the presidents of at least 31 Catholic universities as well as bishops, men and women religious, former staff members at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the heads of various institutes and social action agencies.
"As Cardinal Sean O'Malley put it in a homily at the U.S.-Mexico border last year: 'We know that the border is lined with unmarked graves of thousands who die alone and nameless,'" the letter said.
"Immigration is 'another pro-life issue,' the cardinal reminds us, echoing our Holy Father Pope Francis, who views abortion, extreme economic inequality and the death of migrants as part of a 'globalization of indifference' and a 'throwaway culture' that treats human beings as disposable," it said.
The signers noted that there are more than two dozen pro-life Catholics in the House of Representatives, saying that "many of them will join thousands of people of faith, including some of us, at the March for Life in Washington" Jan. 22.
"As brothers and sisters in faith, we urge these elected officials and all Catholics to defend the sanctity of human lives at all stages," the letter said. "We recognize the image of God in the migrant at the border, in the prisoner on death row, in the pregnant woman and in the hungry child."
On Jan. 14 the House voted 236 to 191 to block funding for President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration, which included deferring deportations for millions of people who are in the country illegally.
The bill included an amendment to cut off funding for the president's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.
Through the 2-year-old program, more than half a million young adults and teens who came to the U.S. as minors have been promised they won't be deported if they stay out of trouble. In late November Obama expanded the program to parents of U.S. citizens or green card holders who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, supported the measure to cut off funding. Among the signers of the letter was the president of his alma mater, Jesuit Father Michael J. Graham of Xavier University in Cincinnati.
The nation's immigration crisis "will not be solved by threats to shut down government agencies, enforcement-only strategies or piecemeal approaches," the letter said. "Breaking up immigrant families and denying protection to those fleeing gang or cartel violence, as just one example, is neither a humane or effective strategy."
It urged lawmakers to pass comprehensive immigration reform "that would create an earned path to citizenship for those in the shadows, expedite family reunification, strengthen refugee protection, address why desperate people reluctantly uproot and cross borders."
A reform measure "deserves a vote now," the letter said. "Delay and partisan bickering will only lead to more hardship, suffering and death."
Other signers were: Helen Alvare, professor of law at George Mason University School of Law, an adviser to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a former USCCB pro-life spokeswoman; Father Larry Snyder, outgoing president of Catholic Charities USA; retired Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston and retired Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., both of whom are former USCCB presidents; members of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas' leadership team; Eli McCarthy, director of the Office of Justice and Peace at the Conference of Major Superiors of Men; and Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network.