By Rhina Guidos
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The lack of will by politicians to move forward on immigration reform is affecting the lives of 11 million people in the country and something must be done, said the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ migration committee.
In a Dec. 21 statement, Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington said that even though there’s strong support in the country for immigration reform, “the inability of political leaders to come together and reach consensus on positive, forward-looking immigration legislation” will have grave consequences for people and the well-being of the country.
Because they couldn’t find Republican support to pass a bill to provide immigration reform this year, Democrats in Congress looked to include immigration provisions in the Build Back Better Act, President Joe Biden’s proposed social-spending legislation.
Though the provisions would have stopped short of granting permanent residency, a step before citizenship, they would have allowed temporary work permits for almost 7 million people who are in the country without legal permission, prevented them from being deported and allowed them to travel.
But the Senate parliamentarian rejected inclusion of immigration provisions in the proposal for the third time, saying it violated a Senate rule to include it.
“While the road ahead is uncertain, the present reality remains clear: the status quo cannot stand,” Bishop Dorsonville said in his statement. “Almost half of the 11 million undocumented persons living in the United States today have lived here for at least 15 years.
“Many others are receiving temporary protections but lack access to permanent solutions. They are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters,” he continued. “They are essential workers, homeowners and entrepreneurs. Most importantly, they are persons created equally in God’s image, imbued with a potential far beyond the limits of their current immigration status.”
The bishop, who has worked with other prelates — as well as organizations in contact with government officials — to voice the church’s support for immigrants, urged politicians of all stripes to find consensus.
“We have long urged Congress and the President to work together to enact legislation that provides permanent protections –including a pathway to citizenship — for our undocumented brothers and sisters,” he said.
Bishio Dorsonville said that in the year ahead, “we will continue to pray for and work toward a solution that provides immediate relief to the undocumented members of our society.”
“We maintain our long-standing call for Congress to work on a bipartisan basis to promote the full integration of undocumented persons,” he said, “and to create a more sustainable immigration system, consistent with the common good.”