Immigration Sunday

By Sam Lucero | The Compass | August 28, 2013

Immigration laws need reform

In his Compass column Aug. 14, Bishop David Ricken announced that he would designate Sunday, Sept. 8, as Immigration Sunday. On that day, Bishop Ricken will celebrate a 9 a.m. Mass at St. Therese Church in Appleton to call attention to the church’s support for overhauling this country’s immigration system.

Immigration Sunday will also be observed in other dioceses around the country. Its goal is to put a spotlight on the critical need for lawmakers to pass new immigration laws that not only encourage legal immigration, but also promote human rights and protect immigrant families from separation.

Last June, the U.S. Senate voted to adopt immigration legislation: the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act. As the bill’s title indicates, it focuses on securing borders, providing just economic opportunities for migrant workers and simplifying the path toward citizenship. As members of Congress return to Washington D.C., Oct. 9 from their summer break, it will be the House of Representatives’ turn to vote on immigration reform.

While some people want immigration reform to focus on securing borders and building walls to keep immigrants out, Catholic leaders want to emphasize the human element in the immigration debate. Immigration Sunday is an opportunity to do just that — by inviting families who have been adversely affected by our broken immigration system to pray and perhaps share their stories.

The bishops also see Immigration Sunday as an opportunity to rally Catholics and other people of good will to petition their elected leaders for action on immigration reform. However, in order to rally people to a cause, they must understand the issues. This is where the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Justice for Immigrants Campaign comes in.

Formed by the USCCB in 2005 to help make “humane and just immigration reform a public policy priority,” Justice for Immigrants works with other Catholic organizations to advocate for immigration reform. Its main goal is to educate the public, particularly Catholic politicians, about church teaching on migration and immigrants. It also seeks to “create political will for positive immigration reform” and organize Catholic networks to assist qualified immigrants.

The Justice for Immigrants website (www.justiceforimmigrants.org) offers many resources for parish leaders who want to enlighten their communities on the complicated issues surrounding immigration and the laws guiding it. One of the resources is the Parish Organizing Manual, a 230-page document that can be downloaded or saved electronically.

“As Catholics, it is a blessing to remember that the struggle for human dignity and liberation is rooted firmly in our faith values and that the moral call for immigration reform is unwavering and will persist until we succeed,” says the organizing manual.

It walks parish leaders through steps in organizing events to better understand immigration from a faith perspective.

The manual’s Immigration Basics section asks and answers the questions, “Who is an immigrant?” “How do immigrants get admitted to permanently reside here?” “Who is a refugee?” “Who is an undocumented immigrant?” and “Who is a naturalized citizen?” The manual also addresses Catholic social teaching and how it relates to migration.

By promoting Immigration Sunday, the U.S. bishops understand that this country is at a crossroads regarding immigration reform. Now is the time to unite and respond as one voice that reflects Christian charity.

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