On Tuesday, April 19, President Barack Obama hosted an important meeting at the White House at which he gave a new commitment to use his office as President to help engage the American public in passing meaningful immigration reform in our country. I applaud the President for taking this step.
The Catholic Church in our country was well represented by Bishop John Wester, the Bishop of Salt Lake City. He emphasized that the President was the key person to help move needed legislation forward.
At that meeting the President reconfirmed his commitment to a comprehensive approach to immigration reform, and expressed his desire that such legislation move forward during the present Congressional year.
In order for immigration to reform to succeed in this Congress, however, depends entirely upon President Obama. His position of leadership is crucial and key to any next steps.
What is clear, though, is that the status quo of no reform is unacceptable. We have no meaningful programs in place to balance the needs for workers in many lower income jobs with the supply of those workers. Consequently, at our Southern Border we have a fence. And upon that fence are two signs. The first says HELP WANTED. And the one next to it says: NO TRESPASSING.
The President is the one person in our country who can begin to bring together a consensus on immigration reform. But we need to move beyond demagoguery and global assertions about various immigrant groups.
Businesses across the nation, both small and large, rely heavily upon immigrant workers to fill their jobs. The business community needs to step forward and offer its support to legislation which relieves business of unfair employee advantages.
All of our Faith Communities--Jewish, Muslim, and Christian--need to be part of a great coalition to work together for the rights of all immigrants in our country. All of us agree upon both the Scriptural foundations for the value of immigrants, as well as the values of each Faith Community for "the stranger in our midst."
The group most affected by our present situation are families. Most people are unaware that there is no such thing as a purely "illegal immgrant family". Rather, our immigrant families consist of members who are here with legal documents, and those who are not. We call these families "blended families". Obviously, these families are not going to volunteer to dissolve and have some members remain here while others return to their country of origin.
In the meantime, President Obama can take steps on his own to provide some relief to immigrant groups, and I encourage him to do so. He has the executive authority to use prosecutorial discretion to minimize the deportation of immigrants with long-time equities in our country, such as wthose with USA citizen children or DREAM Act students.
To date, the present Administration has deported more immigrants than the previous Administration, many of whom would benefit from a comprehensive immigration reform bill in Congress, which would provide a path towards full legal residence.
The present approach of President Obama sends a mixed message as to the priorities of the Administration.
Countless millions of us are at the ready to assist the President to meet his avowed commitment to comprehensive immigration reform. Now is the day, now is the hour!
President Obama, we all stand ready to join you as you lead our overall efforts forward on behalf of our immigrant peoples!!