Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory joined a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol building on 21 July to voice the Catholic Church’s support for comprehensive immigration reform. The conference was sponsored by the American Business Immigration Coalition, that supports immigration reform. The briefing came after a congressional hearing on the plight of migrant farmworkers.
“Catholic social teaching upholds the principle that every person has the right to live in his or her own homeland in security and dignity. However, when loss of work forces migration, we must welcome them, protect them and share our abundance with them,” the cardinal said. He expressed special concern that current immigration law divides families. “We know that strong and united families are the building blocks of our society,” Gregory added.
The push for immigration reform comes when several factors raised the issue’s importance. A federal court declared unconstitutional the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme, initiated by President Barack Obama as a safe harbour from deportation for those brought to the U.S. as children.
The plight of farmworkers, who often work under inhumane conditions, was highlighted during the pandemic as they were deemed “essential workers.” Earlier this year, however, the U.S. Supreme Court barred those seeking to organise farmworkers from accessing the workers on company-owned land without the owners’ permission. The ruling effectively frustrates most union organising efforts because the farmworkers are housed on company land as well.
Comprehensive immigration reform is broadly popular with the American people but it failed in both 2007, when Republican President George W Bush tried to enact legislation, and in 2013, when Obama did. President Joe Biden sent a comprehensive immigration proposal to Congress on his first day in office.
Cardinal Gregory urged advocates not to give up hope. “Standing in solidarity with our migrant brothers and sisters means once again raising the question, will we care for our neighbour?” he said. “After years of delay, the 117th Congress now has an opportunity to be courageous by addressing immigration in a comprehensive and productive way.”