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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 99, December 2005









WASHINGTON – The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, with 37 other national religious organizations, has called for comprehensive immigration reform “that establishes a safe and humane immigration system” consistent with their faith traditions of welcoming immigrants.

Citing passages from Hebrew scriptures, the New Testament, and the Koran, the interfaith statement draws the attention of lawmakers to the “moral dimensions of public policy,” and urged them to “pursue policies that uphold the human dignity of each person”.

In addition to the 38 national religious organizations, 69 local religious organizations (including numerous religious orders and diocesan Catholic Charities affiliates), and numerous individual religious leaders, endorsed the Interfaith Statement. Among the individuals endorsing the statement are Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago; San Bernardino Bishop Gerald Barnes, chairman of the USCCB Migration Committee; Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio; Tucson Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas; Orlando Bishop Thomas G. Wenski; and Auxiliary Bishop Jaime Soto of Orange (CA). 


“Inter-religious” Statement in Support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform

October 18, 2005


We, the undersigned faith-based leaders and organizations, join together to call upon President Bush and our elected officials in Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform legislation that establishes a safe and humane immigration system consistent with our values. Our diverse faith traditions teach us to welcome our brothers and sisters with love and compassion.  

The Hebrew Bible tells us: “The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:33-34). In the New Testament, Jesus tells us to welcome the stranger (cf. Matthew 25:35), for “what you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me” (Matthew 25:40). The Qur'an tells us that we should “serve God…and do good to…orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer that you meet, [and those who have nothing]” (4:36).

We call for immigration reform because each day in our congregations, service programs, health-care facilities, and schools we witness the human consequences of an outmoded system. We see and hear the suffering of immigrant families who have lost loved ones to death in the desert or immigrants themselves who have experienced exploitation in the workplace or abuse at the hands of unscrupulous smugglers and others. In our view, changes to the U.S. legal immigration system would help put an end to this suffering, which offends the dignity of all human beings.    

We call upon our elected officials to enact legislation that includes the following:

  • An opportunity for hard-working immigrants who are already contributing to this country to come out of the shadows, regularize their status upon satisfaction of reasonable criteria and, over time, pursue an option to become lawful permanent residents and eventually United States citizens;
  • Reforms in our family-based immigration system to significantly reduce waiting times for separated families who currently wait many years to be reunited;
  • The creation of legal avenues for workers and their families who wish to migrate to the U.S. to enter our country and work in a safe, legal, and orderly manner with their rights fully protected; and
  • Border protection policies that are consistent with humanitarian values and with the need to treat all individuals with respect, while allowing the authorities to carry out the critical task of identifying and preventing entry of terrorists and dangerous criminals, as well as pursuing the legitimate task of implementing American immigration policy.

While we support the right of the government to enforce the law and protect the national security interests of the United States, we recognize that our existing complex and unworkable immigration system has made it nearly impossible for many immigrants – who seek to support their families or reunite with loved ones – to achieve legal status. Reforming the immigration system to address this reality would allow the U.S. government to focus its enforcement efforts on real threats that face all Americans – citizens and immigrants alike. 

We urge our elected officials to conduct the immigration reform debate in a civil and respectful manner, mindful not to blame immigrants for our social and economic ills or for the atrocities committed by the few who have carried out acts of terrorism. A polarized process that is lacking in civility would hinder deliberative discourse and not serve the best interests of our nation. 

As faith-based leaders and organizations, we call attention to the moral dimensions of public policy and pursue policies that uphold the human dignity of each person, all of whom are made in the image of God. We engage the immigration issue with the goal of fashioning an immigration system that facilitates legal status and family unity in the interest of serving the God-given dignity and rights of every individual. It is our collective prayer that the legislative process will produce a just immigration system of which our nation of immigrants can be proud.