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Arizona bishops release dramatic letter on immigration

November 30, 2004

Honorable George W. Bush
President
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As the Catholic bishops of the State of Arizona, we write to you to ask you to immediately work toward reform of our nation's immigration laws.

As you know, Mr. President, Arizona is particularly impacted by immigration into the United States.  Because of federal border enforcement initiatives in place for the past several years, migrants in search of work have crossed into Arizona in record numbers. Many have been driven into remote and dangerous areas of the Arizona desert, leading to a high loss of life.  Since 2002, more than 240 migrants have lost their lives in the Arizona desert. Over the past ten years, more than 2,300 migrants have died along the U.S.-Mexico border. We find these deaths unnecessary and preventable.

Moreover, the issue of immigration into our State has divided local communities, leading to episodes of violence and unrest, especially along the U.S.-Mexico border. In some cases, U.S. citizens have attempted to enforce immigration laws. The recent Arizona Border Control (ABC) enforcement initiative only has contributed to an environment of desperation and division.

Mr. President, we were encouraged by your comments during the last presidential debate in Tempe, Arizona, regarding immigration, in which you said that legal avenues should be created to allow migrants to enter the United States. It is our hope, and our urgent request, that you make reform of our nation's immigration laws a high priority during your second term in office.

Specifically, we urge you to introduce a comprehensive immigration reform package which includes a legalization program for long-term residents, reform of the family-based immigration system to reduce waiting times for family reunification, and the creation of a worker program which protects the basic rights of migrant workers. In our view, all three areas must be included in any package to ensure that undocumented migration, and the incidences of exploitation and death attendant to it, are significantly minimized.

In addition, we urge you to restart bilateral migration negotiations with the Government of Mexico as soon as possible. A bilateral dialogue could address some of the root causes of migration between our two nations, including economic inequities and other social factors which force individuals to leave their homes, at great risk to themselves.

Mr. President, as pastors and social service providers we witness every day the human consequences of an immigration system badly in need of repair. You have a unique opportunity to reshape our immigration laws so that migrants who have built equities in our nation may achieve permanent residency and that those in search of work or to join family may enter our country in a safe, orderly, and dignified manner. 

We urge you to seize this opportunity. Without presidential leadership, the current immigration system, which accepts the labor of migrant workers without offering them the protection of law, will continue to lead to the exploitation, abuse, and death of migrants in our country. We stand ready to work with you in this endeavor.

Thank you for your consideration of our views.

Sincerely,

Most Reverend Thomas J. Olmsted 
Bishop of Phoenix

Most Reverend Gerald F. Kicanas
Bishop of Tucson                                                           

Most Reverend Donald E. Pelotte, s.s.s.
Bishop of Gallup, New Mexico

 

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