Sunday, July 09, 2006

Immigration Reform - An Update

The Human Concerns Commission of the Diocese of San Jose has been working to implement the Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform (CCIR) in our diocese. For several months, we have been working in collaboration with a coalition of other groups and participated in the hugely successful marches on April 10 and May 1. To more fully implement the Campaign, Bishop McGrath has appointed Father Jon Pedigo as Director of CCIR. Father Pedigo has submitted the following Immigration Report to summarize our activities to date and provide a legislative review.

Immigration Reform (CCIR) Update – July 7, 2006

Immigration reform activity from January to present:
• January: Held a series of meetings with immigrant community leaders, social service providers, labor, inter-religious groups, immigrant supporters.
• February-March: Continued to meet with groups, attended press conferences, began community education presentations in parishes.
• March-April: Represented the Church in marches and in coalition meetings. Opened up local coalition partners’ agenda to include educators and schools.
• April-June: Participated in inter-diocesan and regional meetings in order to develop long-range strategies for education.

Legislation Issues Affecting Immigrants:
HR4437 (from the House). Non-partisan legislation that is best described as punitive and it does not address comprehensive reform in the immigration system. HR 4437 creates a new federal crime of “unlawful presence” and broadens the definition of immigration violations to include every violation - however minor, whether intentional or not - as a federal crime. The penalty is also extended to those who help the undocumented. HR 4437 also proposes the mandatory detention of all non-citizens attempting to enter the U.S. unlawfully. A new category of “dangerous alien” is created and immigrants can be held in detention indefinitely. HR4437 also calls for building a two-layered fence in parts of Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas.

The Senate has immigration legislation pending, S2611. This bill has several positive provisions: a pathway to citizenship for up to 10 million people, a temporary worker program which allows workers to self-petition for a green card; reunification programs for families; includes educational opportunities for students to qualify for in-state tuition. There are some negative provisions: enforcement provisions that make it mandatory to detain immigrants; deployment of National Guard along the southern border; a hard-lined verification system making employers responsible for immigration law enforcement.

What’s happening this summer? House representatives refuse to meet with the Senate. Majority party members refuse to support labor provisions and path to citizenship for immigrants. House majority party members are holding Summer “town halls” on immigration reform in order to gain support for their HR4437.

Summary: While neither bill supports the fullness of the Church’s position on immigration reform, S2611 at least includes some aspects of comprehensive reform. HR4437 does not contain any points that reflect the Church’s position. It appears that House members are grandstanding for November elections by turning to rhetoric that scapegoats immigrants for the economic hardship while side-stepping conversations on wage and taxation factors and avoiding bi-partisan efforts for humane immigration legislation. The CCIR will continue to invite dialog within parishes through more presentations and discussion groups as well as to work with its local coalition partners in the areas of voter registration and education (see Faithful Citizenship and Immigration Reform). At present there are no large-scale events (like the April and May marches) scheduled this Summer.


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