Immigration reform Church goal
Jun 29, 2005
The time for immigration reform has come, U.S. and Mexican Catholic workers assembled in El Paso said as the groundbreaking Binational Migration Conference opened Thursday.
(El Paso Times, June 24, 2005) Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., said the church owes it to its Hispanic faithful to push for change, as high-profile delegates gathered at the Camino Real Hotel.
"The church in the United States is very, very Hispanic and what a blessing that is. They (Hispanic immigrants) come with the values that are so needed in the United States today. When there is a moral issue that concerns so many of our people, we have to speak," McCarrick said, alternating between English and Spanish. "This is a special moment in the history of the Catholic church and the history of migration."
About 150 diocesan staff members attended the first day of the conference, the first ever along the U.S.-Mexico border. The conference will end Saturday.
Cynthia Colbert, the executive director of Catholic Charities for Central Texas, said she wanted to hear about strategies she can use back home in Austin. "We want to support the campaign (for immigration reform) through educating our own community on the benefits of immigration for all of us. It's a social justice issue for our brothers and sisters," she said.
In a training session Thursday, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops representatives outlined their plan for reform, which included:
# A path toward legalization for undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
# Permits for immigrants to work legally in the United States.
# Expedited family reunification. Now, processing of reunification visas can take five years.
San Bernardino, Calif., Bishop Gerald Barnes, chairman of the conference's migration committee, said, "The status quo is unacceptable."
McCarrick's keynote speech after dinner dealt with migration, including from the standpoint of the Gospels, the church and the bishops' conferences.
"The simple truth is clear: We must welcome the stranger, for in his or her face we see Christ," McCarrick said. "Sadly, the migration experience today, according to the bishops of both countries, is far from the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed."
The conference started with a tour of the El Paso Processing Center, the immigration jail at Montana Avenue and Hawkins Boulevard, for the bishops of El Paso, Tucson and Orlando, Fla., and 27 other Catholic workers.
"This is probably one of the best facilities in the country," said Ouisa Davis, executive director of the Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso. "We wanted them to see how it can be done. ... So they have a basis of comparison when they go back to their sectors."