Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory joined a press conference outside the US Capitol building on 21 July to voice the Church’s support for comprehensive immigration reform.
Sponsored by the American Business Immigration Coalition, supporting such 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.”
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 US as children.
The plight of farmworkers, often working under inhumane conditions, was highlighted during the pandemic as they were deemed “essential workers”. Earlier this year, however, the US Supreme Court barred those seeking to organise farmworkers from accessing the workers on company-owned land without the owners’ permission, frustrating 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 failed in 2007, when 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, saying: “Standing in solidarity with our migrant brothers and sisters means once again raising the question, will we care for our neighbour?”
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