Bishops support executive action on immigration

By Thomas Reese | Nov. 14, 2014
National Catholic Reporter

In a little noted letter, two bishops chairing committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have put the Catholic bishops on record supporting executive action on immigration. The letter places the bishops on President Barack Obama’s side in his dispute with congressional Republicans, who are opposed to any executive action on immigration.

The letter, sent on Sept. 9 with little fanfare, was addressed to Jeh Johnson, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, with copies of the letter going to Dennis McDonough, chief of staff to the president, and Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. The letter was signed by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, chair of the Committee on Migration, and Bishop Kevin Vann, chair of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network. The conference issued no press release to publicize the letter and I cannot find it on the USCCB website.

The letter asked for executive action “to protect undocumented individuals and families as soon as possible, within the limits of your executive authority.” “With immigration reform legislation stalled in Congress,” the letter said, “our nation can no longer wait to end the suffering of family separation caused by our broken immigration system.”

The Republican leadership in Congress has said any executive action by the president on immigration would poison future cooperation on any topic.

The bishops urge that some major problems on immigration be dealt with through by executive action. These would not be considered minor items by either the administration or Congress.

First, they want deferred action authorized for certain groups that might now be deported:

Immigrants who have been in the United States for 10 years or longer and have strong community ties and equities. These people have contributed to our economy and social fabric and should be brought out of the shadows so they can “fully contribute to our society as they get processed through the legal system,” say the bishops.

Parents of U.S. citizens. “One of the tragedies of deportations,” according to the bishops, “has been the separation of parents from their U.S. citizen children.” Anyone who hates big government should not want the government to take away the parents of U.S. citizens.

Parents of recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Unaccompanied children who entered our country to join their parents now face the possibility of having a parent deported.

Individuals residing in the United States with already approved family and employment petitions. These people have had their petitions approved but because of the visa backlog are unable to receive permanent resident status and therefore would be subject to deportation. The bishops think this is wrong.

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