Friday, April 26, 2013


The approaches being taken by the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives are quite different, and everyone needs to know those different approaches and the consequences for our immigrant brothers and sisters.

The Senate Bill is a comprehensive approach, and it has the clear goal of dealing with all of the elements needed for genuine immigration reform.  One package deals with legal status, young people brought here as minors from other countries, temporary workers, border security, employer verification, family reunification efforts, and bringing all 11 million out from the shadows of our society.

The Senate version more closely reflects the principles which have been set forth over many years by the U.S. Bishops Conference.

We believe strongly that the best way to deal with a broken immigration system is to tackle all of the elements and to find just and reasonable solutions to the entire system.

The House approach, however, is far different.  Early indications from the House are that they would prefer to deal with each element separately, and one after another.  Such an approach becomes a piece-meal effort, leaving enormous uncertainties among our immigrants.  It is possible that such an approach could take years to complete, especially if time-line markers accompany each element.

The first comprehensive approach back in 2001, a bipartisan effort led by Senators McCain and Kennedy, and supported by President George W. Bush, would have dealt with all of the elements in a unified manner.

The current Senate Bill takes a similar approach, and I fully support this overall effort in one comprehensive package.

It has been 27 years since Congress has tried to deal with the imbalance of our immigration system, and it is important to move this forward in a meaningful way so that the dignity and rights of immigrants can be granted in one meaningful package.

Each of us needs to contact our U.S. Senator urging their backing and vote for such a comprehensive approach; similarly, we need to contact our U.S. House members and urge them to take the same approach.

A great and historic opportunity is before us, and for the sake of our hard-working immigrant families, we cannot protract this process over many years.

Monday, April 15, 2013

9/11 AND NOW 4/15

Sadly, today we added yet another tragic date to our history:  4/15

April 15, 2013 is now added to 9/11 as a "day of infamy," in that memorable phrase used by President Roosevelt when Pearly Harbor was bombed in 1941.

While facts are still sketchy, the two bombings at the Boston Marathon are surely acts of terrorism.  Someone or group chose Income Tax Day and the Boston Marathon as the occasion to kill, maime, and create havoc across a large city.

As disciples of Jesus, we lift up our prayers and support for fellow Americans and visitors who have been killed, injured, and displaced.  During this Easter Season we have our eyes fixed on our Risen Lord, and into his hands we commend all our affected brothers and sisters.

This latest act of terrorism rises up from evil.  The explosions were calculated to go off exactly as large numbers of marathon runners were nearing the finish line, and many observers and friends were gathered.

May our prayers surround our brothers and sisters with comfort and strength.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


One of the balances needed to be achieved in the coming immigration reform legislation deals with agricultural workers, or, farm workers.

There are two main challenges:

1.     Agricultural growers need employees who are experienced in the specific tasks at hand.  It is of no value to bring in thousands of temporary workers who have no skills in working on farms and ranches.  Untrained workers can not only ruin the harvest, but they can do great damage to fruit trees, certain types of plants--such as strawberries--by how they move around a field, and know how to pick the ripe fruit.

     Growers and farm worker labor organizations need to find ways to legalize the trained farm workers who are already here, and who have the experience to do the best job.  This option benefits everyone, including the consumer.

2.     Farm worker salaries and benefits are already woefully inadequate, and it is feared that importing thousands of unskilled workers for our ranches and farms will depress all farm worker salaries and benefits.  We saw that disastrous result back in the 1960s with the Bracero Program.  All farm workers suffered as lower wages and few benefits became the norm.

All of agriculture will benefit with a stable, trained, and experienced workforce.  Not with thousands of temporary workers.  But to retain these trained and experienced farm workers demands that wages, working conditions, and benefits increase over their present status.

Farm workers who are properly compensated for their experience and whose families can live in security with health insurance, workers compensation, and retirement benefits are more apt to remain working in agriculture.

When legislation is introduced into the Senate soon, we all must be alert to how farm workers, the backbone of our food supply, are treated.  Not only do undocumented farm workers need to be brought out of the shadows, but their overall remuneration and well-being must be protected as well.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


USA Today on April 3 had an insightful article on the herculean task of trying to secure the 1,969 mile long southwest border of our country.

The U.S. Border Patrol has 9 geographical sectors spanning the border.  Five of those sectors account for almost all apprehensions:

     Tucson Sector:   120,000 apprehensions     4,176 agents

     Rio Grande Valley Sector:   97,762 apprehensions     2,546 agents

     Laredo Sector:   44,872 apprehensions     1,879 agents

     San Diego Sector:   28,461 apprehensions     2,623 agents

     El Centro Sector:   23,916 apprehensions     1,168 agents

We must keep in mind that the largest illegal entry into our country now is from criminal elements transporting narcotics, guns, and money back and forth to Mexico.  Human traffickers would be next.  People looking for work in the USA account for a small trickle compared to past years.

Since the bad guys are our real target, then we should place our focus on the criminal elements and deploy more Border Patrol agents in those five Sectors with the highest traffic.  These five Sectors employ 12,600 agents.  If we are really serious about securing our southern border, then it is reasonable to expect that the number of agents must be increased.

The big questions remain:  how many new agents would dramatically halt entry into our country?  What time-line should accompany their deployment?  How does one actually measure the security of a border?  Given the 1,969 mile border, it will be impossible to patrol every single mile 24/7. 

I recommend that Congress focus on the 5 sectors which demonstrate the highest traffic, and then determine how many new agents would be required to reduce illegal entries to a minimal number.  Some newer technology would also help, but the Border Patrol has shown that agents on the ground achieve the greatest success.

Will this cost more money?  Of course.  But if tighter border security, along with all the other provisions in a comprehensive immigration reform package, results in fewer undocumented people in our country over time, then any costs associated with that undocumented population will drop significantly.

I believe most Americans favor stronger border security:  both with the 4,400,000 undocumented immigrants who came here on valid Visas and never left when the Visas expired; and with the 6,600,000 undocumented immigrants living and working in the shadows of our society.

But unreasonable demands and expectations about securing a border of 1,969 miles must be set aside.  We need to do what needs to be done for border security, with the highest priority being given to the many criminal elements.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


The continuing mantra from Washington DC focuses on "border security."  This is something we are all concerned about.

Of the 11 million documented persons in our country, some 40%, or 4,400,000, of these people came here on VISAS--student visas, visitor visas, and the like.  But they overstayed their visas, and when their visas expired, they simply just stayed here.  They did not depart our country as they had promised.

For some reason, we have been led to believe that all undocumented aliens walk or run across our southern border.  Not true.  We know that 40% came through our international airports across the country--they did not walk across a border. 

Recall that with the 9/11 terrorists all came here on Student Visas, and one walked across the Canadian border.  No one came across our border with Mexico.

Incredible Problem:  we have no system of any kind to track visitors to our country who come on Visas.  Over the years, I have visited many countries with visa requirements.  Whenever I checked into a hotel, I had to show my passport and visa.  If my visa had expired, they would have called the police and I would have been detained, and then, deported.

Once a person enters our country on a Visa, absolutely no process or procedures are in place to track that person.  That is wrong.

In any comprehensive immigration program, we need firm and concrete measures to hold Visa holders to a higher standard. 

That will eliminate 40%, or, 4,400,000 undocumented people.

Just do the math.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


If the various news reports are correct, we will soon see a proposed Bill submitted to the U.S. Senate through which comprehensive immigration reform would be enacted.

The bipartisan support in the Senate is the reason for the progress, and I am hopeful that at long last our broken and ineffective present immigration system will be completely fixed.

The US Bishops have been proposing needed immigration reform for many years now, and at least at this moment, many of the building blocks to an effective and comprehensive reform are in the proposal.  What is crucial is how the Senate Bill fares in various committee hearings, and what types of amendments might be proposed--and approved.

There is real danger that in both the Senate and the House crippling amendments might so weaken the Bill that a comprehensive approach would once again be out of reach.

This is where we can all play a key role:  first, we must lift up prayer to God that our immigrant brothers and sisters will at long last be afforded respect, dignity, and the mechanisms to gain legal and work status.  Secondly, we must email our U.S. Senators and our U.S. House members urging them to pass a truly comprehensive law which will finally bring millions of fellow citizens out from the shadows, and set in place mechanisms to discourage further undocumented immigration.

The one group the U.S. House members listen to is their constituents--people with the power and ability to retain them in office, or expel them from office. 

Once the Bill has been introduced, and once the Bishops' Committee on Migration has had the opportunity to review it, I will be giving you some sample emails so that you can send a clear and direct message to your Representative in Washington.

It has been a long time since we have drawn so near to a possible comprehensive immigration law, and I pray that the archetype migrant family, the Holy Family, will assist us to bring it about.