Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Hardly a day goes by without some new attack upon our immigrant brothers and sisters living and working among us.

Whether it be States such as Arizona or Alabama enacting harsh and focused laws to discourage and to terrify immigrant families by denying their basic human dignity and vast contributions to our society, or, media commentators continuing to blame immigrants for the nation's economic woes, our immigrants are suffering deeply.

Most of our immigrant families are "blended" families, meaning that some members have legal documents and some others do not. Every family is going to take every avenue to stay together—not to be separated by deportation. But that effort is lived out in fear and terror that in an instant a family member will be plucked off the streets and placed in detention.

Immigrant brothers and sisters: Take heart, have courage! Since the 1700s the Catholic Church in this country has welcomed each and every wave of immigrants who have come to our shores. We have stood with you, we have provided spiritual and pastoral care, and we established schools to educate your children. We have seen too many times the prejudice that greeted you, and the denial of dignity and rights which followed.

But do not be afraid. Every successive group of immigrants before you has felt the sting of insult and unwelcome by some in our country. However, your dedication and commitment to our country continue to benefit the nation. More than that, your resolve and sacrifices have helped create the great country in which we all live.

The Bishops of the USA and of Mexico issued a joint Pastoral Letter in early 2003 entitled "Strangers No Longer--Together on the Journey of Hope" to recall the Church's history of spiritual and pastoral outreach to immigrants over the centuries. This latest Letter reaffirms all of the past initiatives taken by the Church, and pledges our continuing efforts over the coming years.

Although it is not my role to speak on behalf of the U.S. Bishops, nonetheless, I do wish to reaffirm my personal commitment to stand and walk with you--all of our immigrants across the country in the spirit of past declarations by the Bishops' Conference. In particular:

+ Families awaiting reunification processes: Do not give up, and do not be afraid; realize that your Church continues to advocate for a family to be united with all its members, as well as to assist you in the process;

+ Parents afraid of workplace raids by ICE: Please maintain your prayerful patience when you leave for work, and thank God when you return home; focus on your family members and be sustained by all the good you are doing for them;

+ Children at home anxiously waiting for your parents to return: Say a prayer each morning for their safe journey to and from work, and thank God when they return to you in the evening; thank them for their hard work for you and for your brothers and sisters;

+Those of you in our midst who do not have jobs: Do not give up; there are many groups in the Church and in our communities dedicated to help you find a job; say a prayer to St. Joseph the Worker, the earthly father of Jesus, to assist you in finding a job;

+Immigrants in process to obtain a green card or to obtain legal residency: Continue to be hopeful, seek the assistance of our many immigrants’ rights groups who can assist you with the legal processes;

+Students in high school and college without proper papers: You are known as our “Dreamer students”, and we have great hopes for your future. Continue with your studies, and explain your own personal journey to those who are working to create a path for you towards legal residency; become involved in groups helping to pass the Dream Act and other legislation to protect you and to give you a future;

+For all immigrants living and working in our midst: Be proud to be living in the United States, and get to know your new country well. Remember that we are a nation of millions of immigrants who came before you. Be inspired by their hard work and sacrifices to help make our nation strong, safe, and hope-filled for your children. Learn English, as well as the positive values of our society. Work hard towards full citizenship, and participate in our many democratic processes—especially voting in all elections.

The Catholic Church is standing and walking with you on your journeys forward. No matter how strident and hateful the words against you, you are not alone. Please count on us; we respect your dignity as brothers and sisters, and we will fight for your basic human rights; we will never abandon you.

Friday, August 19, 2011


The White House has announced new steps to assist "low-priority" offenders, unauthorized immigrants such as the elderly, crime victims, and people who have lived in our country since children--most of them brought here by parents and family at an early age.

There are approximately 300,000 illegal immigrants in various stages of deportation proceedings, and this huge backlog has clogged the immigration legal system. There will be a case-by-case review of all these cases, and the focus will now shift to those who have been found guilty of a serious crime and whose deportation makes sense.

However, to focus upon the elderly and students who have graduated from high school and college serves no valid purpose. Educated immigrants who are now willing and able to enter the labor market, pay taxes, and improve the economy are a great asset to all of us. I am hopeful that many "Dreamers"--students who have graduated from college and/or served in the military--can now register with the immigration department and be given authorization to become employed with their own social security number.

I support the efforts of the White House to put the emphasis where it belongs: the deportation of those who have committed criminal acts while in this country. Those whose only "crime" is to be here without papers need to be considered separately and seen for their value to our country.

Some are claiming that these new procedures amount to "amnesty"--which has become apparently a very negative concept and word. Only those cases will be closed which demonstrate that the unauthorized immigrant has taken positive steps for his/her education and work skills, and that they are now prepared to assume their responsibilities as contributing members of our society.

On July 12 last year I did a blog of the issue of "amnesty," and I invite you to view that blog as well.

I am confident that Americans of good will can understand that the steps being proposed will help our country enormously, while those who have committed crimes here will be deported to their home countries.

Monday, August 8, 2011


As the harvest of our nation's crops continues across the land, once again we are faced with the incongruity of our immigration laws with the availability of workers to perform those jobs.
Nowhere is this felt more acutely than in our vast agricultural industry. Fully mechanized crops such as wheat, corn, and cotton do not present the same challenges.

But all of the hand-harvested crops such as fresh table tomatoes, table grapes, peaches, nectarines, plums, strawberries, and vast numbers of similar crops demand an immediate availability of trained and committed workers to deal with those quick harvest times.
However, the current immigration laws and regulations do not allow for a quick response for qualified workers to perform those tasks.

Efforts to force farmers and growers to use E-Verify are ill-founded. Bryan Little, the director of labor relations for the California Farm Bureau Federation, has pointed out: "There is not another labor force out there for our industry other than the one we have now. And taking that away will create huge problems."

Rep. Lamar Smith [R-Texas] has proposed a bill that presumes that legal American workers are more than ready to take on the onerous jobs done now by illegal immigrants. But farmers and growers maintain that they are caught in the middle: they can't find documented workers willing to pick crops and take care of livestock. Making the farmers and growers use E-Verify would make it impossible to farm.

The present system relies on the H-2A provision to bring workers in from other countries. But the very concept and its past history show vividly how such a program will not work. Manuel Cunha is president of the Nisei Farmers League in Fresno and he points out that "H-2A is a disaster, and it doesn't work for California farmers."

Erik Nicholson, national vice president of the United Farm Workers union, has pointed out that "We need to provide the hundreds of thousands of workers who have been helping to build the agriculture economy with a way to gain legal status."

Once again, in one of the nation's top industries, it has been shown that piecemeal approaches to immigration reform do not work.

What is needed is a system which recognizes our need for special workers and to find a way to assist them to become legalized on a path to citizenship--creating an experienced and committed workforce for the future.

Our current immigration system is broken and cannot fulfill the needs of our country.