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US bishops to back federal government in immigration dispute with Arizona

March 23, 2012

In a letter urging the speaker of the House of Representatives to work for the speedy passage of immigration reform legislation, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles stated that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will support the federal government in its dispute with Arizona over the state’s 2010 immigration legislation.

“Soon, the US Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of Arizona v. United States, in which they will decide whether the federal government maintains full authority to enact and implement laws governing immigration,” said the prelates, who serve respectively as USCCB president and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration. “The US Conference of Catholic Bishops will file an amicus brief in the case in support of the federal government.”

Elsewhere in the letter, the prelates told Rep. John Boehner that “passage of immigration reform is more important now than ever, as State laws and local enforcement initiatives are filling the immigration policy vacuum left by Congress. This has created a patchwork of laws and policies throughout the country which have led to discord in our communities.”

The prelates continued:

Of particular concern to us and our brother bishops is the impact our broken system is having on immigrant families, many of whom have one or more undocumented persons among their number. Federal and local law enforcement policies have led to an unprecedented separation of families, as undocumented parents are being separated from their US citizen children …

In addition, State laws in Alabama, Arizona, and other States have created environments in which immigrants, regardless of their legal status, and law enforcement personnel are pitted against each other, eroding long-held trust between immigrant neighborhoods and local authorities. Because of congressional inaction, the federal courts have been forced to intervene to halt their implementation … Unless Congress acts in the near future, we are deeply concerned that these new laws will continue to tear at the social fabric of our nation.

“Moreover, certain provisions of these laws could negatively affect church ministries--soup kitchens, homeless shelters, hospitals, and parishes--which provide basic material and spiritual needs to persons who seek help, regardless of their legal status,” the prelates added. “We, along with other faith-based organizations, should not be required to check a person’s immigration status in order to serve them.”


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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Mar. 25, 2012 6:44 PM ET USA

    Giving an inch to the Obama will be viewed by the federal powers as weakness. Defy the Obama through publicized acts of moral courage. Force him to shut down at gunpoint Catholic hospitals, charities, adoption agencies, schools, churches, and crisis homes. Do not close them voluntarily. Begin a massive public campaign, documenting the new martyrdom. Show a unified front. This is war--of the spiritual realm. Commission laymen to craft an immigration plan that forces fidelity to just laws.

  • Posted by: ColmCille - Mar. 25, 2012 4:06 PM ET USA

    It is not so cut and dried. Yes, the state has the right to protect its borders and stop criminals entering. But as CHRISTIANS we have to keep in mind that illegal immigrants are human beings, many of whom are facing desperate situations at home. Legal immigration policy is broken, forcing them to enter illegally, often at great risk, to protect themselves and their families. Any one of us would do the same. Families should not be separated. We must find a way to temper justice with mercy.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 24, 2012 6:59 AM ET USA

    Archbishop Dolan: STAY OUT OF THESE POLITICAL MATTERS; YOU'RE SHOWING YOUR IGNORANCE AND MAKING US ASHAMED. I completely disagree with you. Stick to your job!

  • Posted by: unum - Mar. 23, 2012 10:24 PM ET USA

    The fact that the bishops are backing the Obama administration in opposition to Arizona's Tenth Amendment rights is alarming. But, their opposition to Arizona's action to protect public safety from the threat of the Mexican drug cartels shows their complete lack of understanding of the complexities of public policy. I am embarrassed to admit that they are leading my Church.

  • Posted by: mgreen32234 - Mar. 23, 2012 4:07 PM ET USA

    Too discouraging to comment on.

  • Posted by: shrink - Mar. 23, 2012 2:28 PM ET USA

    A little edit to the bishops' statement:  “Federal ^economic^ and local law enforcement policies ^in Mexico^ have led to an unprecedented separation of families, as undocumented parents are being ^forced to flee to the^ separated from their US citizen children”