Immigration Reform

Immigration Reform

Please contact your Senators regarding the need
for comprehensive immigration reform

The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 was passed by the U. S. Senate Judiciary Committee on March 27, immigration reform debate now turned to the full U.S. Senate. We expect the Senate to debate Immigration Reform over the next couple of weeks.

Your Senators need to hear from you now. The task is to keep the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 intact.

Please contact your Senators today!

Take Action Here!

The following links provide useful information about Immigration Reform and the “Justice for Immigrants” campaign organized by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Bishop Raymundo J. Peña’s column regarding Immigration Reform
(Published Feb. 26th, 2006)


Immigration has become an issue of intense, ongoing public discussion and debate across the nation in the last few years, owing in large measure to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, which were carried out by young men who had already entered our borders and had resided here for some time before executing their plot.

Heightened concerns over national security since then have led to increased attention to how porous our boarders seem to be, and have led to calls for tightening border security and undertaking draconian measures to check the flow of undocumented aliens into the country. “We are being overrun,” we have been told.

Ensuing debate over immigration policy reform has put one of the best and most admirable aspects of the American character at odds with our deepest, sometimes irrational fears.

We want to remain what we have always been from our founding – a nation that has welcomed immigrants from afar into the great “melting pot” of American society. That guiding vision, which in times past inspired us to welcome to our shores the “tired, poor, and huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” seems to have been buried amidst the rubble left by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Discussion of immigration reform these days seems more about sealing our borders and casting out anyone who is here without papers. A recent Time Magazine survey showed that 63 percent of Americans think illegal immigration into the U.S. is a very, or an extremely, serious problem. Seventy percent reported a belief that illegals cause an increase in crime, and 50 percent said they believed they should be deported. Over 80 percent feel that social services like food stamps and medical treatment to illegal immigrants should not be given because they’re too costly for taxpayers.

Hundreds of state legislative initiatives have been advanced within the last year alone, seeking to impose strictures or penalties on illegals or those helping them. By far, the most punitive legislative proposal to date is H.R. 4437 (the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism and illegal Immigration Control Act), passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last December 16, by a vote of 239 to 182.

Among its various provisions, H.R. 4437 criminalizes individuals and groups who assist undocumented immigrants, changes undocumented immigration status from a civil to a criminal violation, and waves basic rights claims of the undocumented, reversing the burden of proof (guilty until proven innocent). It empowers all law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration laws, undermines state court decisions, and thwarts federal courts’ authority to review immigration issues, thus eroding due process of law. It turns minor crimes into the much more serious category of aggravated felonies, attached to which are far more serious penal consequences, including the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences for many offenses. Of particular concern to the church is the fact that, if H.R. 4437 were passed into law, it would clearly seem to require the church or any Good Samaritan to first ascertain a person’s legal status before offering help, with the risk of incurring up to five years imprisonment for helping an undocumented immigrant. As far as I can see, the church could conceivably incur legal sanction even for providing baptism, confession, the Eucharist, or Anointing of the Sick to an undocumented person.

I and the other U.S. bishops have consistently called over the years for comprehensive reform of immigration policies. In our vision, immigration policy should at all times protect the dignity and fundamental rights of every person, including freedom of movement and freedom to pursue economic opportunity and betterment. Every person in special need, we have said, must be treated with special consideration and compassion. We have also called for immigration policy reforms that are more generous, reduce waiting times, better protect the unity of the immigrant family, and grant amnesty in some fashion to those undocumented immigrants who are already in our midst.

We must ask ourselves if H.R. 4437 represents the best that we as a people are capable of. Do its provisions meet the basic criteria of justice? Are its restrictive and punitive measures a proportionate response to fears over security, or do they represent a dangerous overreaction that would more accurately be described as a panic response and an exercise in scapegoating? Is resistance to generous immigration policies motivated in part by a perception that our economy is sagging, and that immigrants are taking jobs away from other Americans?

It needs to be stated forthrightly that, according to research conducted by the Cato Institute, by the government, and by other research institutes, that immigrants do not take jobs and opportunity away from Americans, do not send all their money back to their home countries, are not free loaders but are tax payers, and are not a drain on the U.S. economy but are contributors to it. Seventy-five percent of immigrants are here legally. Not one security expert, it should be added, has stated that restrictive immigration policies would have prevented 9/11.

We are all persons who migrated here, or descended from a family who migrated here in a previous generation. How can we wish to shut the door to others seeking to come here after us, once we are safely established inside?

As the Catholic Church, we do not support or condone illegal immigration. We acknowledge and support the right of nations to defend their borders. At the same time, we are bound by faith to follow the teaching and example of Christ, and to apply his teachings to the contingent issues that arise in our personal and social lives.

Because H. R. 4437 is so at odds in a number of its provisions with the witness of Scripture and with basic Catholic principles of social justice, we have no choice but to vigorously oppose it in its current form on the grounds of prudential judgment and moral conscience.

We as a people are capable of enacting far better and more balanced immigration reforms. Now that the bill is making its way through congress, we should tell our senators that it is not worthy of us, and ask them to vote it down, so that the path may be cleared for the drafting of a new bill that better protects justice and the basic dignity of every person, and that better reflects the ennobling vision of our nation’s founders, and the historic purposes to which they dedicated our nation.

+Raymundo J. Peña
Bishop of Brownsville

Pastoral Statement by the Catholic Bishops of Texas
on Immigration Reform Legislation (H.R. 4437)
January 23, 2006

We are strongly opposed to legislation which was recently passed by the United States House of Representatives, H.R. 4437 the so called Border Protection Antiterrorism, Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005. This extremely punitive and shameful legislation will not solve the problems facing our nation regarding security along the U.S.-Mexican Border. We are greatly dismayed that many Texas Representatives voted for this bill. We urge the members of the United States Senate especially our two senators, Senator John Cornyn and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison to reject this legislation if it is considered when the Congress reconvenes.

Of special concern to us is the fact that pastoral and social ministers who care for persons who come to them regardless of legal status are put at risk for criminal prosecution. The legislation would make felons out of rabbis, ministers, doctors, nurses, priests, deacons, religious, and social ministers who provide pastoral care or basic human needs to those who come to them for assistance, if they are undocumented.

This legislation will do nothing to secure a more stable border which we support. In fact it will drive further underground those who are coming to our country seeking a better way of life and thus put them at greater risk for exploitation by the unscrupulous.

We urge the United States Senate to reject this legislation and enact comprehensive immigration reform that secures our borders, leads to quicker family reunification, and makes it possible for those who want to come to our country for good purposes to be treated with respect for their human dignity.

Reform legislation must address the reality that our economy depends on foreign workers and that those who are here without legal status should have the opportunity to regularize their status without leaving the country or be denied access to citizenship.

Most Rev. Jose GomezArchbishop of San Antonio
Most Rev. Joseph A. FiorenzaArchbishop of Galveston-Houston
Most Rev. Daniel DiNardoArchbishop of Galveston-Houston
Most Rev. John W. YantaBishop of Amarillo
Most Rev. Gregory M. AymondBishop of Austin
Most Rev. Curtis J. Guillory, SVDBishop of Beaumont
Most Rev. Raymundo J. PeñaBishop of Brownsville
Most Rev. Edmond CarmodyBishop of Corpus Christi
Most Rev. Charles V. GrahmannBishop of Dallas
Most Rev. Armando X. OchoaBishop of El Paso
Most Rev. Kevin VannBishop of Fort Worth
Most Rev. James A. TamayoBishop of Laredo
Most Rev. Placido Rodriguez, CMFBishop of Lubbock
Most Rev. Michael D. Pfeifer, OMIBishop of San Angelo
Most Rev. Alvaro Corrada, SJBishop of Tyler
Most Rev. David E. FellhauerBishop of Victoria
Most Rev. Vincent M. RizzottoAuxiliary Bishop of Galveston-Houston
Most Rev. Joseph S. VasquezAuxiliary Bishop of Galveston-Houston
Most Rev. Patrick J. ZurekAuxiliary Bishop of San Antonio

Comunicado Pastoral por los Obispos Católicos de Texas sobre la Reforma a la Legislación de Inmigración (H.R. 4437)

Estamos firmemente en contra de la legislación que ha sido aprobada recientemente por la Casa de Representantes de Estados Unidos, H.R. 4437, la llamada Protección Antiterrorista de la Frontera, Decreto de Control de Inmigración Ilegal de 2005.

Esta legislación es extremadamente punitiva y vergonzosa, y no solucionará los problemas que enfrenta nuestra nación con respecto a la seguridad a lo largo de la Frontera de Estados Unidos con México.

Nos sentimos profundamente consternados de que muchos Representantes de Texas votaron a favor de esta propuesta.

Pedimos a los miembros del Senado de Estados Unidos, especialmente a nuestros dos senadores, el Senador John Cornyn y la Senadora Kay Bailey Hutchison, que rechacen esta legislación si es considerada cuando el Congreso reconvenga.

Una preocupación muy especial para nosotros es el hecho de que los ministros pastorales y sociales quienes cuidan de las personas independientemente de su situación legal, están en riesgo de un proceso criminal. La legislación considerará como criminales a rabinos, ministros, médicos, enfermeras, sacerdotes, diáconos, religiosos o religiosas, y ministros sociales quienes proporcionan cuidado pastoral, o necesidades humanas básicas a aquellos quienes vienen a ellos solicitando ayuda, si son indocumentados.

Con esta legislación no se asegura una frontera más estable, lo cual apoyamos. En realidad, esto provocará que aquellas personas quienes estén tratando de venir a este país en busca de una mejor vida a que tomen medidas más drásticas, y por consiguiente esto los pone en un mayor riesgo para la explotación por personas sin escrúpulos.

Pedimos al Senado de Estados Unidos que rechace esta legislación y que promulgue una reforma de inmigración completa que asegure nuestras fronteras, que conlleve a una reunificación más rápida, y que haga posible que aquellas personas que vienen a nuestro país con buenas intenciones sean tratadas con respecto por su dignidad humana.

La reforma a la legislación debe tratar con la realidad de que nuestra economía depende mucho de los trabajadores extranjeros y que todos aquellos que viven aquí sin una situación legal deben tener la oportunidad de regularizar esta situación sin tener que abandonar el país o que se les niegue el derecho a la ciudadanía.