(Riverside, CA) PRESS-ENTERPRISE
CHURCH: The Inland diocese's leader speaks at a national meeting of U.S.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
By CLAIRE VITUCCI and MICHAEL FISHER
WASHINGTON - Catholic dioceses must do more to counter a growing
anti-immigration sentiment and protect the human rights of foreign-born
newcomers, the leader of the Inland region's Catholics told a national gathering
of U.S. Catholic bishops Tuesday.
church's voice on behalf of immigrants is more critically needed than ever
before," said Bishop Gerald R. Barnes, head of the Diocese of San Bernardino,
who spoke at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' fall meeting in
Washington, D.C. "We have an opportunity to better inform our people about the
situation of immigrants and how our nation's laws need to be changed to reflect
a more just approach to immigrants and immigration policy."
gave an update on the Justice for Immigrants campaign, the bishops'
controversial program to push Congress and the White House into approving looser
immigration policies that would legalize millions of undocumented workers and
reunify families across the border.
the campaign's launch in May, fewer than 50 of the nation's 172 Roman Catholic
dioceses have signed on to educate their parishioners about the need for
immigration reform. Barnes said that in order for the effort to be successful,
more dioceses must participate.
Dioceses across the country will soon receive parish-resource kits that include
homily notes and immigration figures to be used to educate the nation's 67.3
million Catholics and the public about the contributions of immigrants and help
Catholics generate political pressure for new immigration laws.
this important campaign of the church to be successful a conversion of hearts
and minds resulting in Christian attitudes toward immigrants must be achieved,"
said Barnes, who chairs the conference's Migration Committee, which is
spearheading the immigration effort.
Catholic-affiliated groups, including Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic
Health Association, have joined the campaign, which calls for legalizing
undocumented immigrants in the United States, creating a temporary-worker
program, and streamlining the process for obtaining family-reunification visas,
which now can take years.
some criticize the program, saying undocumented immigrants undermine the quality
of life in the United States by overloading roads, schools and hospitals. They
question the church effort to change federal immigration policies.
are meddling in political and legislative matters and not just administering in
their flock," said Andy Ramirez, of Chino, chairman of Friends of the Border
Patrol. "This isn't an issue of morality. This is an issue of law enforcement."
Donnelly, leader of the border-watch group Minutemen Corps of California, said
the church would benefit from relaxed immigration laws given that a large number
of immigrants are Latinos and Catholic. He argues that the campaign will
encourage illegal immigration, putting immigrants in danger from unscrupulous
smugglers and hazardous border crossings.
Support for immigrants, legal and undocumented, is nothing new for the Catholic
Church, which says every person should be welcomed and that all people have the
right to migrate to achieve a life worthy of human dignity. But convincing
Congress and the White House is another matter, political experts have said.
has talked to lawmakers about the Catholic Church's stance on immigration,
including Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who has introduced a bill that would
bolster border security and require illegal immigrants to return to their home
countries before applying as temporary workers in the United States.
said he understands the fear that many have about securing U.S. borders. But
legislation that adds Border Patrol agents and constructs more border fencing
without adding a path to legalization or helping to strengthen the economies of
the immigrants' home countries won't tackle the complicated dilemma of illegal
immigration, he said.
have tripled our Border Patrol already and still people are coming across,"
Barnes said. "People will come when they're hungry . . . when they're trying to
provide a better life for their families. They'll come no matter how high the
wall will be."