Bishops Want Health Care Reform Aligned With Current Abortion Funding Laws; Urge Support For Menendez Amendment To Waive Waiting Period For Legal Immigrants
Don’t permit federal funds for elective abortion coverage for first time in decades
Let legal immigrants access health benefits for which they pay taxes
Three issues for bishops: respect life and conscience; affordability; fair access for immigrants
WASHINGTON—The U.S. bishops again urged senators to place Hyde Amendment language into proposed health care reform legislation, a step that would align the legislation with policies now governing all other federal health programs and the just-passed Consolidated Appropriations Act.
They made their request in a December 14 letter from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities (http://www.usccb.org/healthcare/DiNardo_1214_letter.pdf)
In a separate letter, also sent Dec. 14, Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Migration, and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, chair of the Domestic Policy Committee, urged support of the Menendez Amendment (http://www.usccb.org/healthcare/legalfiveyears.pdf). The Menendez Amendment, proposed by Rep. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), would give states the option to lift the five-year waiting period for legal immigrants to obtain Medicaid coverage.
The letter on the Hyde Amendment sought to clarify misrepresentation of an amendment sponsored by Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE), Orrin Hatch ((R-UT) and Robert Casey (D-PA) that the Senate tabled on December 8. The bishops pointed out the irony that senators supported the policy of the Nelson/Hatch/Casey Amendment when they voted overwhelmingly for the Consolidated Appropriations Act on December 13. The appropriations act contains Hyde language banning federal funding for health coverage that includes elective abortion, and maintains laws protecting conscience rights such as the Hyde/Weldon Amendment.
A major problem with the current health care reform legislation in the Senate , Cardinal DiNardo said, is that “it explicitly authorizes the use of federal funds to subsidize health plans covering elective abortions for the first time in history.”
“Health care reform is too urgently needed to be placed at risk by one lobbying group’s insistence on changing the law. Before the Senate considers final votes on its health care reform legislation, please incorporate into this bill the longstanding and widely supported policies of current law,” Cardinal DiNardo added.
In supporting the Menendez Amendment, Cardinal DiNardo, Bishop Wester and Bishop Murphy noted that “legal immigrants, who work, pay taxes, and are on a path to citizenship, should have access to health care services, such as Medicaid, for which they help pay.
“Moreover, providing low-income legal immigrants access to Medicaid would help ensure that the general public health of immigrant communities and the nation is served,” they said.
Support the Menendez Amendment that Stands for Fairness to Legal Immigrants!
Ask your Senators to stand for fairness in health care reform. For far too long, legal immigrants have been denied the opportunity to gain access to affordable health insurance. Under the Senate health care reform plan, legal immigrants are required to have health insurance, but must wait five years before they can access insurance programs like Medicaid. Now, the Senate has their first chance to make things better for these communities.
Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has joined with five other policymakers to introduce Senate Amendment 2991 to health care reform legislation, which would give states the option to eliminate the five-year waiting period for lawfully residing immigrants who need access to Medicaid.
Ask your Senators to vote against amendments being offered Senators Ensign (R-NV) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) that would create barriers to immigrants from obtaining health care coverage for which they are eligible.
Votes on these amendments could come in the next few of days.
MESSAGE—SENATE: “Please support the Menendez amendment that provides fairness to legal immigrants and oppose amendments that are harmful to immigrants and the health care of their families.
WHEN: Today! The Senate spent the weekend working on spending bills and will resume debate on the health care bill today.
Senator Kent Conrad
Washington: (202) 224-2043
Bismarck: (701) 258-4648
Toll Free: 1-800-223-4457
Fargo: Telephone: (701) 232-8030
Grand Forks: Telephone: (701) 775-9601
Minot: Telephone: (701) 852-0703
Senator Byron L. Dorgan
Washington: (202) 224-2551
Bismarck: (701) 250-4618
Toll Free: 1-800-666-4482
Fargo: (701) 239-5389
Grand Forks: (701) 746-8972
Minot: (701) 852-0703
U.S. Bishops: Current Health Care Bills Violate Essential Principles; Will Seek Changes or Have to Oppose
The October 8 letter from Bishop William Murphy, Cardinal Justin Rigali and Bishop John Wester reiterated the bishops’ main concerns: that no one should be forced to pay for or participate in an abortion, that health care should be affordable and available to the poor and vulnerable, and that the needs of legal immigrants are met.
Bishop Murphy, Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Wester chair the U.S. bishops’ committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Pro-Life Activities and Immigration, respectively.
The bishops reaffirmed their commitment to working with Congress and the Administration toward genuine health care reform, but stated, “If final legislation does not meet our principles, we will have no choice but to oppose the bill.”
“We sincerely hope that the legislation will not fall short of our criteria,” wrote the bishops. “However, we remain apprehensive when amendments protecting freedom of conscience and ensuring no taxpayer money for abortion are defeated in committee votes.”
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has advocated for health care reform for decades. The bishops wrote that “Catholic moral tradition teaches that health care is a basic human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity. Much-needed reform of our health care system must be pursued in ways that serve the life and dignity of all, never in ways that undermine or violate these fundamental values. We will work tirelessly to remedy these central problems and help pass real reform that clearly protects the life, dignity and health of all.”
The full text of the letter can be found online at: www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/2009-10-08-healthcare-letter-congress.pdf
USCCB: Senate Committee Addresses Some Issues, Failies to Correct Abortion Problems and Immigration Concerns
In a recent letter to the Senate, the USCCB had called for improvements in the bill to meet the bishops’ key criteria for genuine health care reform: protecting life and dignity, affordability, and inclusion of immigrants. For the text of this letter see www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/2009-09-30-healthcare-letter-senate.pdf.
The Committee rejected pro-life amendments offered by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) which the USCCB supported. One amendment would write into this bill the abortion funding policy that has long governed all federal health programs: no federal subsidies for benefits packages that cover abortion, with rare exceptions; insurers could offer supplemental abortion policies if they were funded solely by the private premiums of those choosing to purchase them. Another amendment would forbid federal agencies, and state and local governments receiving federal funds under this bill, to discriminate against health care providers that decline to perform, refer for, or pay for abortions.
“The bill remains deeply flawed on these issues and must be corrected,” said Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. “It is especially disheartening that the Senate committee would not even support longstanding conscience language on abortion that has already been accepted as part of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s health care reform bill.”
The USCCB’s recent letter had said that “so far, the health reform bills considered in committee, including the new Senate Finance Committee bill, have not met President Obama’s challenge of barring use of federal dollars for abortion and maintaining current conscience laws.” Doerflinger said this remains true, so “these problems must be corrected on the House and Senate floor.”
On affordability, Kathy Saile, Director of Domestic Social Development for the USCCB, said the bill took some steps toward making health care more affordable, but that “many families are still vulnerable to high health care costs. As Congress continues to debate health care reform, it should take further steps to help at-risk poor and low-income families and implement access as soon as possible.” As an example, Saile said, “Expansion of access to programs such as Medicaid should be implemented as soon as possible.”
On inclusion of immigrants, the Committee defeated amendments opposed by the USCCB, which would have placed additional restrictions on legal immigrants and their families from accessing health-care, but failed to improve the access immigrants currently have.
“Legal immigrants, who work hard and pay taxes, should be treated equally with U.S. citizens,” said Kevin Appleby, director of Migration Policy and Public Affairs for the USCCB. “It is counterproductive to the general public health to leave them outside of the system, unable to access preventive treatment and dependent on emergency care. The U.S. bishops will continue to push for affordability grants to legal immigrants and their families and a removal of the five-year waiting period for legal immigrants to access Medicaid.”
For more information on the U.S. bishops’ position on health care reform, visit www.usccb.org/healthcare.
U.S. Bishops Raise Concerns Over Health Care, the Protection of Life, Immigrants and Affordability in Letter to Senate
WASHINGTON—Three U.S. bishops raised their concerns over human life and dignity, immigrants and affordability in a September 30 letter to the U.S. Senate. Cardinal Justin Rigali, Bishop William Murphy and Bishop John Wester chair the Committees on Pro-Life Activities, Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Migration, respectively, for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
“Our Catholic moral tradition teaches that health care is a basic human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity,” the bishops wrote. “These moral principles and our everyday experience lead us to work for three central priorities for health care reform.”
The bishops outlined three criteria that need special attention as legislation moves forward: respect for life and dignity, affordability, and inclusion of immigrants.
“Health care reform legislation should reflect longstanding and widely supported current policies on abortion funding, mandates and conscience protections because they represent sound morality, wise policy and political reality,” the bishops wrote. “So far the health reform bills considered in committee, including the new Senate Finance Committee bill, have not met President Obama’s challenge of barring use of federal dollars for abortion and maintaining current conscience laws. These deficiencies must be corrected.”
On affordability, the bishops criticized the Senate Finance Committee bill for it “would impose financial burdens on low-income and moderate-income families and those families with significant and chronic illnesses.” They urged Congress to support measures that would help low-income families, including further limiting premium costs and other out of pocket expenses for all citizens and legal immigrants.
“The Catholic bishops renew our appeal to provide equity for legal immigrants in access to health care,” the letter said. “Immigrants pay the same taxes as citizens and their health needs cannot be ignored. Leaving them outside a reformed system is both unfair and unwise,” the bishops concluded.
The full text of the bishops’ letter can be found online at: www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/2009-09-30-healthcare-letter-senate.pdf
FAQs on the Bishops and Health Care Reform
"Genuine health care reform that protects the life and dignity of all is a moral imperative and a vital national obligation" - Bishop William F. Murphy
Questions and Answers About the U.S. Bishops' Position on Health Care Reform
From the USCCB Health Care Reform Web Site
The Catholic bishops support health care reform. What are the bishops’ key criteria for health care reform?
The bishops have been consistent advocates for comprehensive, life-affirming reform to the nation’s health care system. Health care reform needs to reflect basic moral principles. The bishops believe access to basic, quality health care is a universal human right not a privilege. In this light they offer four criteria to guide the process: a truly universal health policy that respects all human life and dignity, from conception to natural death; access for all with a special concern for the poor and inclusion of legal immigrants; pursuing the common good and preserving pluralism including freedom of conscience and variety of options; and restraining costs and applying them equitably across the spectrum of payers.
Why are the bishops so vocal about health care reform?
One out of three Americans under the age of 65 went without health insurance for some period of time during 2007 and 2008. Of these, four out of five were from working families. Sixty four percent of the uninsured are employed full time, year round. This state of affairs is unacceptable. In the Catholic tradition, health care is a basic human right not a privilege. It is a fundamental issue of human life and dignity.
Are the bishops trying to promote an anti-abortion agenda through health care reform?
No. The bishops will continue to fight against the evil of abortion by all means available. But they have not demanded that urgently needed health care reform become a vehicle for advancing the pro-life cause, and they likewise believe it should not be used to advance the cause of abortion. In this sense, the bishops have asked that health care reform be “abortion neutral,” this is, that existing laws and policies with regard to abortion and abortion funding be preserved, allowing health care reform to move forward and serve its legitimate goals.
Why are the bishops insistent that healthcare reform be “abortion neutral”?
Abortion advocacy groups are trying to use health care reform to advance their agenda, by having Congress or a federal official establish abortion as a “basic” or “essential” health benefit, guaranteeing “access” nationwide and requiring Americans to subsidize abortion with their tax dollars or insurance premiums. This would reverse a tradition of federal laws and policies that have barred federal funding and promotion of abortion in all major health programs for over three decades (e.g., the Hyde amendment, 1976), and have respected the right of health care providers to decline involvement in abortion or abortion referrals. This agenda would also endanger or render irrelevant numerous local and state laws regulating abortion. The bishops cannot, in good conscience, let such an important and pressing issue as health care reform be hijacked by the abortion agenda. No health care reform plan should compel anyone to pay for the destruction of human life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of abortion. Any such action would be morally wrong and politically unwise.
Are the bishops promoting socialized medicine by advocating for universal access?
All people need and should have access to comprehensive, quality health care that they can afford, and it should not depend on their stage in life, where or whether they or their parents work, how much they earn, where they live, or where they were born. There may be different ways to accomplish this, but the Bishops’ Conference believes health care reform should be truly universal and genuinely affordable.
Health care is already expensive. Why advocate for legal immigrants to be covered too?
Legal immigrants pay taxes and contribute to the U.S. economy and social life in the same manner as U.S. citizens do. Therefore, there should be equity for legal immigrants in access to health care. In the Catholic tradition, health care is a basic human right, like education, and having access to it should not depend on where you were born. Achieving equality in this case, for instance, means repealing the five year ban currently in effect for legal immigrants to access Medicaid, and ensuring that all pregnant women in the United States, who will be giving birth to U.S. citizens, are eligible along with their unborn children for health care.
What kind of actions do the bishops recommend to make quality healthcare accessible for all and genuinely affordable?
Many lower income families simply lack the resources to meet their health care expenses. For these families, significant premiums and cost sharing charges can serve as barriers to obtaining coverage or seeing a doctor. Medicaid cost-sharing protections should be maintained and new coverage options should protect the lowest income enrollees from burdensome cost sharing. The bishops have urged Congress to limit premiums or exempt families earning less then 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level from monthly premiums; they also recommend limiting co-payments and other costs which could discourage needed care, and increasing eligibility levels for Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program). They have urged Congress to provide states with resources to expand coverage and ensure sufficient funding for safety net clinics, hospitals and other providers serving those who will continue to fall through the cracks even after the system is reformed.
Have more questions? Looking for resources? The USCCB Health Care Reform Web Site is full of information for Catholics and anyone concerned about health care reform.
Legal Immigrants and Health Care
Help for Immigrants -Yes Same-Sex Agenda - No
WASHINGTON—Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, expressed the Committee’s support for the Reuniting American Families Act (S. 1085) introduced May 20. He did so in a June 2 letter to Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
The Act proposes reforms to the family-based immigration system that would allow immigrant families to more quickly reunite in the United States.
“Family reunification has represented the cornerstone of the U.S. immigration system, and should remain its central tenet in the future,” Bishop Wester said. He stressed that the United States “should resist proposals which would erode the family-based immigration system.”
Bishop Wester emphasized the importance of ensuring that the nuclear family stays together. “It is extremely important that barriers that keep the nuclear family—husband, wife and child—divided are removed as soon as possible,” he said, adding that S. 1085 “achieves this goal.”
Bishop Wester also issued a second letter indicating that the bishops’ Committee on Migration is not supporting similar legislation in the House. In a June 2 letter to Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), Bishop Wester wrote: “As you know, the USCCB supported H.R. 6638, similar legislation that you introduced during the 110th Congress. Unfortunately, however, while the bishops support many of the provisions in the Reuniting Families Act, your decision to include in the bill the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would provide marriage-like immigration benefits to same sex relationships, makes it impossible for the bishops to support this year’s version of your bill.”
Bishop Wester noted that UAFA “would erode the institution of marriage and family” and called it “a position that is contrary to the very nature of marriage which pre-dates the Church and the state.” Consequently, he indicated that the Committee is instead offering its strong endorsement to the Senate version.
Among other provisions, S. 1085 would enable the immediate relatives (husbands, wives, and children) of legal permanent residents to legally enter the country more quickly; recapture family visas from prior years that were lost to bureaucratic delay; reduce family-visa backlogs from sending countries; and ensure that the widows and orphans of legal permanent residents are able to remain in the United States.
Bishop Wester also said that “Positive changes in the family-based immigration categories, such as those included in S. 1085, should be a central feature of any comprehensive immigration reform effort.”
Bishops Issue Statement on First Anniversary of Postville Enforcement Actions, Continue Call for Immigration Reform
“My brother Catholic bishops and I understand and support the right and responsibility of government to enforce law,” said Bishop Wester. “We strongly believe, however, that worksite enforcement raids do not solve the challenge of illegal immigration. Instead they lead to the separation of U.S. families and the destruction of immigrant communities. ”
Bishop Wester called families to pray for “those hurt by the raid and to work for comprehensive immigration reform so that others will not face similar pain and cruelty in the future.”
“The Postville action of a year ago is a disturbing reminder of the need to repair the nation’s broken immigration policies,” said Bishop Wester.
Read Bishop Wester’s statement.
Action Alert! Immigration Reform
SCR 4003 urges Congress to reform the nation's immigration policy in a manner that helps North Dakota businesses.
The North Dakota Catholic Conference supports efforts to include to strengthen the resolution by calling for an immigration policy that humanely secures our borders, protects workers and employers, respects families, and recognizes the needs of businesses to have a stable and legal supply of workers.
Call or email your state senator now and urge him or her to support amendments to SCR 4003 that put a human face on immigration reform.
Go here to read the conference's testimony on the resolution.
Conference Calls for Immigration Reform with a Human Face
The committee is considering SCR 4003, which urges Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform. The North Dakota Catholic Conference testified that the resolution, though fine, could be improved by adding some of elements needed for successful immigration reform.
Go here to read the conference’s testimony.
Helping the Newcomer
The Grand Forks Herald recently highlighted how the area’s schools are helping children learn English. Some of the money needed for these programs come from the federal government, but state money is also needed. Each legislative session, the questions arise about the program. Those concerned about the Biblical instruction to welcome the newcomer should read this story.
Poll Shows Overwhelming Catholic Support for Immigration Reform
The poll conducted October 17-20, included a sample of 1,000 people who self-identified as Roman Catholics and was commissioned by Migration and Refugee Services of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (MRS/USCCB). It had a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percentage points.
About 69 percent of Catholics polled supported a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, provided they register with the government; 62 percent supported the concept if they were required to learn English. The U.S. Catholic bishops have long endorsed a path to citizenship for undocumented persons that would include requirements to register with the government and to learn English.
“These results show that, like other Americans, Catholics want a solution to the challenge of illegal immigration and support undocumented immigrants becoming full members of our communities and nation,” said Johnny Young, executive director of Migration and Refugee Services of the USCCB. “It is clear that those opposed to a legalization of the undocumented are a minority,” he added.
In other findings, 64 percent of Catholics opposed the construction of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, while three out of four Catholics agree that the church has a moral obligation to help provide for the humanitarian needs of immigrants, regardless of their legal status.
Todd Scribner, education coordinator for MRS/USCCB, stated that the poll results demonstrated that the efforts of the U.S. bishops to educate Catholics on the realities of immigration are bearing fruit.
“Catholics are generally in agreement with their bishops that there needs to be a comprehensive and humane solution to our immigration problems,” Scribner said. “The strong educational efforts of the bishops, through the Justice for Immigrants Campaign and their own teachings, have helped generate support in the Catholic community for comprehensive reform.”
The U.S. bishops launched an educational initiative in 2005, entitled the Justice for Immigrants Campaign, to educate Catholics on the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
Bishops to Homeland Security: Stop the Raids!
Speaking on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Bishop John C. Wester, chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Migration, urged the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and President Bush to reexamine the use of worksite enforcement raids as an immigration enforcement tool.
“The humanitarian costs of these raids are immeasurable and unacceptable in a civilized society,” Bishop Wester said. “While we do not question the right and duty of our government to enforce the law, we do question whether worksite enforcement raids are the most effective and humane method for performing this duty, particularly as they are presently being implemented.”
The statement, released September 10, addresses the increase in worksite enforcement raids across the nation over the last year, in which DHS has targeted employers who hire unauthorized workers by using force to enter worksites and arrest immigrant workers. During the process of these raids, U.S. citizen children have been separated from their parents, immigrants arrested have not been afforded the rights of due process, and local communities, especially relatives including legal permanent residents and U.S. citizens, have been left to cope with the aftermath.
“We have witnessed first-hand the suffering of immigrant families and are gravely concerned about the collateral human consequences of immigration enforcement raids on the family unit,” say the bishops in the statement. “Many families never recover; others never reunite.”
In the absence of comprehensive reform, the U.S. Catholic Bishops have sought to work collaboratively with DHS to ensure humanitarian considerations in executing workplace raids. The statement calls for refraining from enforcement activity in certain areas that provide humanitarian relief such as churches, hospitals, community health centers, schools, food banks, and other charitable services. It also calls for the release of caregivers who have dependents offering a variety of release mechanisms available under the law; access to legal representation; respect for basic human dignity; and, mechanisms for families to remain together and locate each other following an enforcement raid. It also states that non-profit and community groups should be engaged in this effort.
“Absent the effective implementation of these safeguards, we believe that these enforcement raids should be abandoned,” the statement reads, adding that “[i]mmigration enforcement raids demonstrate politically the ability of the government to enforce the law. They do little, however, to solve the broader challenge of illegal immigration. They also reveal, sadly, the failure of a seriously flawed immigration system, which, as we have consistently stated, requires comprehensive reform.”
The bishops urged the two presidential candidates “to engage the issue of immigration in a humane, thoughtful, and courageous manner” and to turn away from enforcement-only methods.
Complete text of statement follows.
Statement of Most Reverend John C. Wester
Bishop of Salt Lake City
Chairman, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration
Worksite Enforcement Raids
September 10, 2008
On behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), I call upon the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and President Bush to reexamine the use of worksite enforcement raids as an immigration enforcement tool. The humanitarian costs of these raids are immeasurable and unacceptable in a civilized society.
In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, we have sought to work collaboratively with DHS to ensure that raids are carried out humanely. It seems to us that DHS has attempted to abide by several humanitarian considerations in executing some of the workplace raids.
However, we believe that DHS has not gone far enough to ensure that human rights protections are consistently applied in all enforcement actions.
For over a year now, DHS has targeted employers who hire unauthorized workers by using force to enter worksites and arrest immigrant workers. During the process of these raids, U.S.-citizen children have been separated from their parents for days, if not longer; immigrants arrested have not been afforded the rights of due process; and local communities, including legal permanent residents and U.S. citizens, have been disrupted and dislocated. The sweeping nature of these raids---which often involve hundreds of law enforcement personnel with weapons---strike fear in immigrant communities and make it difficult for those arrested to secure basic due process protections, including legal counsel.
We have witnessed first-hand the suffering of immigrant families and are gravely concerned about the collateral human consequences of immigration enforcement raids on the family unit. Many of our local parishes have helped respond to human needs generated by these enforcement actions, providing counseling and legal services to parents and children and basic needs assistance to immigrant communities.
Raids strike immigrant communities unexpectedly, leaving the affected immigrant families to cope in their aftermath. Husbands are separated from their wives, and children are separated from their parents. Many families never recover; others never reunite.
As our government confronts the challenges of immigration, let it not forget one of its core duties: protecting the family unit as the fundamental institution upon which society and government itself depends.
While we do not question the right and duty of our government to enforce the law, we do question whether worksite enforcement raids are the most effective and humane method for performing this duty, particularly as they are presently being implemented. In this regard, we ask DHS to immediately pledge to take the following actions to mitigate the human costs of these raids:
- DHS should refrain from enforcement activity in certain areas that provide humanitarian relief—churches, hospitals, community health centers, schools, food banks, and other community-based organizations that provide charitable services;
- Primary, not simply sole, caregivers should be released following an enforcement action to care for their children. A variety of release mechanisms, including parole in the public interest, release on recognizance, bail, and alternatives to detention should be utilized for this purpose:
- DHS should facilitate access to meaningful legal representation for arrested individuals so that they are aware of their legal rights and options;
- Enforcement actions should be conducted in a manner which preserves basic human dignity: immigrants who are working to survive and support their families should not be treated like criminals.
- Mechanisms should be instituted to allow family members to remain together and to locate each other during and following an enforcement action. Non-profit and community groups should be engaged in this effort.
- Absent the effective and immediate implementation of these safeguards, we believe that these enforcement raids should be abandoned.
- Immigration enforcement raids demonstrate politically the ability of the government to enforce the law. They do little, however, to solve the broader challenge of illegal immigration. They also reveal, sadly, the failure of a seriously flawed immigration system, which, as we have consistently stated, requires comprehensive reform.
As they begin their general election campaigns, we urge the two presidential candidates to engage the issue of immigration in a humane, thoughtful, and courageous manner.
We urge our elected and appointed officials to turn away from enforcement-only methods and direct their energy toward the adoption of comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
National Migration Week
WASHINGTON – ‘From Many, One Family of God’ is the theme for this year’s National Migration Week, sponsored by Migration and Refugee Services of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB/MRS), and to be observed January 6-12. These words are accompanied by an image from the Gospel of Mark of Jesus feeding the crowds with multiplied loaves and the fishes. The message is one of assurance of the providence of God as well as a reminder that His abundance is meant to be shared with all people. This year’s celebration marks the 27th annual National Migration Week observance.
Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, new chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, said that this year’s theme “reminds us that though we come from many cultures and places, we are all part of one human family and members of the one Body of Christ. Sadly, rather than embracing newcomers to our land whose circumstances have compelled them to seek new lives among us, we too often respond in fear and harbor attitudes of resentment and suspicion.”
“The miracle of the loaves and fishes is God's promise not only to the disciples but to us as well. If we fail to minister to the needs of these newcomers, we fail our Lord himself,” Bishop Wester said. “National Migration Week 2008 is a celebration of the diversity and richness of the family of God…When we set aside our concerns and share our resources, God’s blessings extend to all of us.”
After failure by the U.S. Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform last summer, the Catholic Bishops have vowed to continue raising their “prophetic voice calling the faithful and all people of goodwill to reach out in love and understanding to our migrant brothers and sisters. We must learn of the realities that cause them to leave all that is precious behind for an uncertain future, learn the truth about the many contributions they make and gifts they bring to our society, and work to reform our immigration laws that cause family disintegration and strife within communities,” the bishops say.
The Migration and Refugee Services of the USCCB has made several materials available to facilitate the observance of National Migration Week 2008. These materials include a prayer for migrants and refugees, bulletin inserts explaining the meaning and purpose of the celebration, a bilingual poster and a calendar for reflection for each day during the week of observance. Each day is devoted to one particular topic and contains a Scripture passage and suggestions for action.
Information and materials for National Migration Week 2008 can be found at www.usccb.org/mrs/nmw.shtml.
New Resources on Immigration
The Root Causes of Migration
In the past 30 years, the number of international migrants has more than doubled, to an estimated 191 million worldwide.These include economic migrants compelled to move to provide for their families, refugees and internally displaced persons fleeing persecution, and victims of human trafficking. The vast majority are economic migrants who have few options to remain in their countries of origin. Read more . . .
The Economics of Immigration
Most immigrants to the United States are motivated to come for economic reasons: To secure stable jobs and a just wage to provide for their families. It is reasonable, in turn, to ask what impact immigrants, including those who are undocumented, have on the economy, public benefits, and native-born workers. The answer is largely positive. Research shows that immigrants – documented and undocumented alike – work hard, pay taxes and help grow the economy. Read more . . .
Resources for Priests and Others
The Basics of Church Teaching on Migration: All persons have the right to have their basic human needs met; Sovereign nations have the right to control their borders; Families have the right to remain united and the right to live with one’s family cannot be denied by law. Also: Scripture references; the Pontiffs on immigration; and The Church’s Public Policy Positions on Immigration; Read more . . .
The Legal Immigration Process
The legal immigration process in the United States is complicated, lengthy, costly, and not available to many who would like to be part of it. For these reasons, and because the process does not provide the United States with the number of workers its economy demands, the U.S. immigration system is widely regarded as “broken.” Read more . . .
The History of Immigration
History always provides us with important perspective as we seek to understand current public policy debates. This is especially true for immigration. While it may be tempting to judge the actions of undocumented immigrants today against the actions of our immigrant ancestors, the legal landscape has changed so dramatically over time that it is difficult to make direct and accurate comparisons. Read more . . .
Statement from Maryland Catholic Bishops (English)
Statement from Maryland Catholic Bishops (Spanish)
DREAM ACT Fails to Clear Hurdle
Yesterday the U.S. Senate voted 52-44 to move to consideration of S. 2205, the DREAM Act. Sixty votes were required in order to move to debate on the bill.
The bad news is that the DREAM Act most likely will not be considered this year. The good news is that the legislation received majority support (52 votes and likely 56 if absent Senators had voted) and that we are narrowing the gap of achieving 60 votes to move toward consideration of immigration legislation. Below you will find the results of the vote.
Senators Conrad and Dorgan voted against moving the bill forward. Please contact them to express your disappointment.
Action Alert: Contact Senators to Support Dream Act
Votes on the bill could continue until the end of the week. Call 202-224-3121 ASAP and ask your Senator to vote yes on the DREAM Act, S. 2205.
For more information on the DREAM ACT:
WHAT: The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (S. 2205, the DREAM Act) is likely to be debated on the floor of the U.S. Senate this week. Sponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), and Richard Lugar (R-IN), the bill would provide many students who are children of undocumented immigrants and who graduate from high school, with the opportunity to gain citizenship and access to higher education.
ACTION NEEDED: Click on "Take Action" and enter your zip code to contact both of your Senators today and ask them to support the DREAM act. We have provided a pre-formatted letter for you to personalize and to help get you started.
BACKGROUND: S. 2205 would permit certain immigrant students who have grown up in the United States to apply for temporary legal status and eventual permanent status if they attend college for two years or serve in the U.S. military. It applies to those young persons who entered the United States at least five years prior to enactment of the bill. S. 2205 does NOT contain a provision permitting states to more easily offer in-state tuition to undocumented students (this provision was included in earlier versions of the bill)
USCCB Migration Chair Expresses Concern About Debate
“The immigration reform debate, while provoking informed analysis and thoughtful discussion, also has generated harsh rhetoric against migrants in this country, particularly those without legal status,” said Bishop Barnes. “Fanned by talk radio and anti-immigrant organizations, this rhetoric has inflamed fears and misunderstanding among some portions of the American public, leading to a polarized and vitriolic atmosphere.”
Bishop Barnes also said that the increase in enforcement initiatives at the federal and local levels will not solve the issue of illegal immigration but will drive immigrants further into the shadows and create fear in immigrant communities. Bishop Barnes pointed to enforcement raids, state and local enforcement initiatives, and other administrative actions as examples of an immigration system that needs reform.
“We reaffirm our view that enforcement-only measures at any jurisdictional level will further drive undocumented migrant workers into a hidden underclass and create more fear and suspicion in immigrant communities,” Bishop Barnes said.
“The U.S. bishops acknowledge the right of our country to secure our borders and enforce immigration law. Such enforcement, however, must respect human rights and dignity and minimize the separation of families.”
Bishop Barnes urged Congress to return to the consideration of comprehensive immigration reform as soon as possible. “We call upon Catholics and all Americans to work together constructively to ensure a positive outcome to this vital national debate.”
Undocumented immigrants not same as criminals, says Vatican official
By Catholic News Service
BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNS) -- Being an undocumented immigrant is not the same thing as being a criminal, a Vatican official told the Global Forum on Migration and Development.
"Independently of their legal status," migrants are human beings with rights that must be respected, said Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers.
The archbishop spoke July 9 at the opening of the global forum, a gathering of nongovernmental and faith-inspired organizations, labor unions and researchers convoked by the Belgian government to come up with concrete proposals for improved international policies on migration and development.
While people have a right to live at peace and with dignity in their home countries, they also have a right to migrate when those needs are not met, Archbishop Marchetto told the forum.
"An irregular migration status, in fact, does not mean criminality," he said.
The international community must find more effective means to promote peace and development throughout the world so that people do not feel forced to leave their homelands and to increase channels for legal migration, he said.
Migration is prompted not only by war or poverty in the developing world, but also by the need of the world's richer countries for laborers, he said.
"Thus, migrants contribute to their host country's well-being," he said.
No matter what migrants' legal status is, he said, "their human dignity must be respected and their freedoms guaranteed: the right to a dignified life; to fair treatment at work; to have access to education, health and other social benefits; to grow in competence and develop humanly; (and) to freely manifest their culture and practice their religion."
At the same time, the archbishop said, migrants have the obligation to respect the laws of their host country and to "strive for proper integration (not assimilation) into the host society and learn its language. They are to foster esteem and respect for their host country, even to the point of loving and defending it."
Catholic Charities USA on Failed Immigration Bill
Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, issued the following statement on the Senate pulling the immigration bill from the floor.
“The Senate’s inability to pass fair and comprehensive immigration reform is a monumental failure for our country.
“Our nation needs its leaders to find compromise solutions to solve our toughest challenges. Today’s action to give up on the bill leaves in place the status quo – a deeply flawed, untenable, and much-criticized immigration system that is desperate need of reform.
“Sadly, just as our nation prepares to celebrate its birthday, the U.S. Senate has turned its back on Lady Liberty and the 12 million immigrants living in fear who yearn to breathe free and achieve the American dream.
“This must not be the end of the efforts by Congress this year to reform our broken immigration system. This requires a humanitarian solution not partisan politics. Catholic Charities USA calls on the Senate to show leadership and try again to find agreement on comprehensive immigration bill. Too much is at stake for our country, for immigrants and their families who are seeking a better life, and for our nation’s security.”
Action Alert on New Immigration Bill
WHAT: Today, the U.S. Senate will resume debate on immigration. Several amendments are likely to be considered to S. 1639. Our policy staff have reviewed the many amendments that are coming forth and have begun to define which we will ask Senators to support and which to oppose.
During the remainder of this week we will be asking you to take 5 minutes and contact your Senators regarding various amendments.
Join the Justice for Immigrants (JFI) Campaign in our advocacy efforts. TAKE 5 and call your Senators today!
ACTION NEEDED: Take 5 minutes to call both your Senators today and tell them about these 4 amendments we support or oppose. Call 202-224-3121 and ask for your Senators' offices now.
Ask both your Senators to:
SUPPORT FAMILY-REUNIFICATION AMENDMENTS
· Amendment # 1199 (Dodd): This would increase the number of visas that are available for parents of U.S. citizens, and would extend the number of days each year that non-immigrant parents could visit families in the United States.
· Amendment # 1317 (Menendez): This would modify the point system to give greater weight to family ties for green-card applicants. Family members could receive up to fifteen points in their application, rather than the ten points that would currently be given to family members in the base bill.
SUPPORT A WORKABLE LEGALIZATION PROGRAM
· Amendment # 1236 (Baucus-Tester): This amendment would strike provisions that make the bill’s legalization program dependent upon the systematic implementation of REAL ID documents. Several states have already passed laws rejecting to implement REAL ID; additionally, best estimates are that this program would take many years and billions of dollars to execute. This amendment would set more realistic goals and expectations for when the legalization program could take effect.
OPPOSE PROVISIONS ENDANGERING VULNERABLE IMMIGRANTS
· Amendment # 1473 (Coleman): This is a slightly modified version of an amendment that was narrowly defeated in this year’s Senate immigration debate. In spite of these changes, the amendment would still prevent local law enforcement officials from choosing to afford certain protections to vulnerable immigrants who are preyed upon by criminals.
BACKGROUND: More information is available at the Justice for Immigrants (JFI) Campaign website.
Catholic Immigration Effort Launches A Million Prayers Initiative May 20-26
The campaign, called “A Million Prayers Initiative,” asks Catholics to lobby and pray on behalf of immigrants nationwide, their families, and members of Congress. Information on the campaign can be found at http://www.usccb.org/mrs/jfi/millionprayers.shtml .
“This is a most critical time in the comprehensive immigration reform debate with legislative solutions being proposed by both the President and Congress, said School Sister of Notre Dame Jane Burke,” manager of Justice for Immigrants.
“The U.S. Senate will be considering this legislation during the next two weeks. They need our prayers and need to know that we are calling for a just and equitable immigration reform bill, one that will make a vital difference in the lives of those who will live by its mandates. Our voices are essential to the passage of this crucial legislation. There are many ways to raise our voices but two in particular are called for at this moment – advocacy and prayer.”
The week of prayer precedes Pentecost, the Church feast which celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Catholics are asked to prayer a special Justice Prayer to guide thousands of advocates as they work to influence the passage of a just and humane comprehensive immigration reform bill in the U.S. Congress. This legislation will affect millions of human lives—those working, paying taxes, strengthening communities, and enriching the moral fiber of our country with a brilliant resurgence of cultural diversity.
The campaign also calls on Catholics to call their senators and educate the public on the U. S. bishops’ five immigration principles
- To make family a priority in immigration law
- To insist the worker programs contain protection for U.S. and migrant workers
- To allow for an earned legalization program for the undocumented in the country
- To restore due process protections
- To respond to the economic, political, and social root causes of migration.
Action Alert: Immigration Reform
ACTION NEEDED: Send a message to BOTH of your Senators starting TODAY! Ask them to:
- Pass just and comprehensive immigration reform legislation that preserves families; provides a path to lawful permanent residence and citizenship for the 11-12 million undocumented in our nation; and improves the economic prospects, health, labor protections, and stability of all U.S. residents, including newcomers.
- Senator Kent Conrad
- Washington: (202) 224-2043
- Bismarck: (701) 258-4648
- Toll Free: 1-800-223-4457
- Fargo: Telephone: (701) 232-8030
- Grand Forks: Telephone: (701) 775-9601
- Minot: Telephone: (701) 852-0703
- Senator Byron L. Dorgan
- Washington: (202) 224-2551
- Bismarck: (701) 250-4618
- Toll Free: 1-800-666-4482
- Fargo: (701) 239-5389
- Grand Forks: (701) 746-8972
- Minot: (701) 852-0703
National Migration Week to Focus on "Welcoming Christ in the Migrant"
The theme for this year’s migration week is Welcoming Christ in the Migrant, which marks the 26th year of the annual observance.
“Our nation’s legitimate security concerns have been distorted by some who would foment anxiety, fear, and a distrust of migrants,” said Bishop Gerald R. Barnes, chairman of the USCCB Migration Committee. “The present immigration reform debate has lost much of its reason and is often being fueled by raw emotions. The Scriptures and Catholic Social Teaching call upon all of us to examine the issues and respond to the strangers among us as we would to Jesus Himself. The Holy Family found safety and new lives in Egypt during their time of great need. Many migrants today follow similar paths as they embark on their journey of hope.”
A wide variety of resources for parishes, schools, and service providers are available on the USCCB/MRS National Migration Week web site at www.usccb.org/mrs/nmw.shtml. Bishop Barnes also encouraged citizens to participate in the bishops’ immigration reform initiative, Justice for Immigrants: A Journey of Hope. Information about this campaign can be found at www.justiceforimmigrants.org.
Five principles for migration from Catholic Social Teaching are foundational to the message of National Migration Week: 1) Persons have the right to find opportunities in their homeland. 2) Persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families. 3) Sovereign nations have the right to control their borders. 4) Refugees and asylum seekers should be afforded protection. 5) The human dignity and human rights of undocumented migrants should be respected.
“When we reach out to aid and comfort the newcomers to our land we are indeed offering ourselves and our gifts in service to the Lord,” Bishop Barnes added. “This is not only our Christian duty but a privilege, knowing that we too have been adopted into God’s family.”