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Renewing Hope, Seeking Justice
December 15, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec. 15, 2009) – Jesuit Refugee Service/USA welcomes the introduction today of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR ASAP) as a first step in providing a solution to fix our broken immigration system. Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced the bill, with 87 co-sponsors including members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Black Caucus, Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Progressive Caucus.

Father Kenneth Gavin, S.J., National Director of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, highlighted the importance of this initial movement towards comprehensive immigration reform: “Although the issue of immigration is a flash point topic for many people in our country, the underlying truth is that it is about people seeking a decent and honest way of life.” Migrants do not leave their homes and families and move to a new country seeking a hand out, they move seeking the opportunity to make for themselves a better way of life and a way to provide for their families. JRS/USA believes Congress must develop policies that reflect the reality of our times. 

The necessity of comprehensive immigration reform flows from a broken immigration system that separates families and has crippled our ability to regulate immigration adequately.

JRS/USA seeks to respond to the call of Christ who is present among those who are suffering from the consequences of current immigration policy and the reality of undocumented migration, apprehension, detention and deportation. In 2003, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Bishops of Mexico published a joint statement, Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope, which states that regardless of their legal status, migrants, like all persons, possess inherent human dignity which should be respected. Government policies that respect the basic human rights of the undocumented are necessary.

“At the present time undocumented migrants have become a hidden underclass in our society. Many are fearful of seeking necessary police protection, afraid of taking their children to school or Church, and are often taken advantage of by unscrupulous employers. Much needed reform will allow them to come out of the shadows, allow families to remain together, and will permit migrants to support their families and play a valuable role in their local communities,” said Fr. Gavin.

Numerous academic and government reports have documented that a program requiring undocumented immigrants to register, become legal, and pay taxes would have a positive impact on our economy.

"The continued failure to devise and implement a sound and sustainable immigration policy threatens to weaken America’s economy, to jeopardize its diplomacy, and to imperil its national security," concluded a report prepared by the bipartisan Council on Foreign Relations' Independent Task Force on U.S. Immigration Policy released last summer. "The stakes are too high to fail," said the task force, co-chaired by former Florida governor Jeb Bush and former White House chief of staff Thomas McLarty. "If the United States continues to mishandle its immigration policy, it will damage one of the vital underpinnings of American prosperity and security, and could condemn the country to a long, slow decline in its status in the world." For this reason, the report urges: "The United States needs a fundamental overhaul of its immigration laws."

Speaking at Georgetown University last month, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick said that “Christ lived as a migrant and a refugee for a reason: in order to live with his people in solidarity, to provide an example to all generations, even to this day, and to give witness to the Kingdom of God. … In Catholic teaching, in the face of the immigrant, the refugee, the asylum-seeker, or the trafficking victim, we see the face of Christ. We may not recognize Him at first, but He is there.” 

Speaking in preparation for next month’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Benedict XVI said “Jesus’ words resound in our hearts: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me,’ as, likewise, the central commandment He left us: to love God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind, and to associate this with love of neighbor. … In this way also, hospitality and solidarity to strangers, especially if they are children, become a proclamation of the Gospel of solidarity. The Church proclaims this when she opens her arms and strives to have the rights of migrants and refugees respected.”

With the Kino Border Initiative and The Refugee Voice (August 2009 issue) JRS/USA has expanded the pastoral care that we have provided undocumented non-citizens over the last nine years in our chaplaincy program at U.S. detention centers. 

Renewing Hope, Seeking Justice is the theme of the 2010 National Migration Week, held January 3 - 9.

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Mr Christian Fuchs
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