NEW HAVEN – Comprehensive immigration reform promises to be on the front burner this month when Congress returns from its summer break. And the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is urging the faithful to contact their representatives in support of the legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship and preserve family unity for 11 million undocumented immigrants.
After passing in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 68-32 in June, the legislation is expected to come up for a vote in the House of Representatives later this month.“It’s important to let our legislators know we support this by phoning, faxing or emailing their office,” said Lynn Campbell, director of the Office for Catholic Social Justice Ministry (OCSJM) for the Archdiocese of Hartford.
“It is also a way to put our faith into action during this Year of Faith, when the Vatican is urging Catholics to renew and deepen their faith commitment,” she said.
According to Mrs. Campbell, the legislation would also provide legal avenues for low-skilled immigrants to come to and work in this country, restore due process for people caught up in the immigration system and promote efforts to address the root causes of migration, such as poverty and persecution.
“It’s going to happen, but we need effort and prayer,” said Arturo Iriarte, parish social ministry coordinator for OCSJM, whose office has been working with parishes to keep them informed about and engaged in the campaign for immigration justice.
Last month, his office coordinated postcard write-in campaigns in parishes, and two processions, one between St. Margaret and Sacred Heart-Sagrado Corazon parishes in Waterbury and the other between Our Lady of Sorrows and St. Augustine parishes in Hartford, as a public show of support.
“This is a historic moment for our country and her leaders,” wrote Archbishop Henry J. Mansell on his blog. The USCCB, “including myself, urges all parishioners throughout the Archdiocese of Hartford and throughout our great nation to urge the 113th Congress to support immigration reform.”
Proponents see an overhaul of the immigration system as critical to preserving and strengthening family unity.
“It (the legislation) would be a great thing for immigrants living here who would feel safer and be seen as equal to everyone else,” said Guadalupe Valeria Lazaro, a member of Sacred Heart-Sagrado Corazon Parish, who crossed the border from Mexico with her parents at the age of 5.
A graduate of Kennedy High School in Waterbury, she plans to enter Berkeley College in White Plains, N.Y., this fall, thanks to the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act of 2011, legislation that grants conditional residency to alien minors of good moral character who graduate from high schools in this country and have lived in the country for at least five years. If they complete two years of college, they can obtain temporary residency for a six-year period.
Ms. Lazaro is among hundreds of people across the country who have been organizing and supporting thousands of congressional visits, prayer vigils, creative actions and phone calls to urge members of Congress to support immigration reform.
OCSJM has been working with parishes on immigration issues for years. Among recent efforts is participation in the USCCB’s Justice for Immigrants campaign, calling for legalization and reform; a 2011 “in-state tuition” bill that allows youth without legal status to obtain in-state tuition rates at Connecticut state schools; and support for a “Safe Driving Act” passed earlier this year that allows undocumented immigrants to apply for a Connecticut driver’s license.