US Catholic Bishops Urge Immigration Reform

by Chris Canniff 


Earlier this month, the Catholic bishops of the United States announced a two-month-long nationwide initiative to promote awareness of the need for immigration reform that respects the dignity of the individual persons and the unity of the families who have been victims of the current, flawed system.  Such events as special Masses, prayer services, pilgrimages, and parish talks on the topic are being hosted in dioceses across the country.  Leading cardinals and archbishops have published op-ed pieces on the topic in the New York Daily News, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post among other publications.

Here in Boston, Cardinal Seán O’Malley wrote a letter to the Catholic faithful of the Archdiocese. His letter was printed in the archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot, and it was also handed out to parishioners after Masses at Cardinal O'Malley's own seat, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston’s South End. O’Malley, who holds a doctorate in Spanish literature, also published his letter in Spanish that it might be more easily read by those Catholics who are most directly impacted by this issue.


“Immigration is a theme which runs through the history of Catholicism in America. The growth of the Church in the United States during the last two centuries was driven by immigration…as the newly arrived turned to our parishes for protection, assistance, and advice,” said O’Malley in his letter.


“The Church intends to be an active participant in the immigration process. We will continue through Catholic Charities and our parishes and schools to assist new Americans as they enter our society and contribute to it, as immigrants have for centuries,” continued O'Malley.


This action by the bishops has been spurred on by the current legislation making its way through Congress. A bill has already passed in the Senate, and the House of Representatives is presently debating the issue. The bishops are working towards comprehensive immigration reform, which will be rooted in the principle of family unification and will guarantee a path to citizenship for the 11 million persons in this country who are undocumented. “The status of those people – whose lives, dignity, and human rights are at stake – is the central moral issue at this moment in the policy debates,” said O’Malley.


The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) runs a website at, which speaks to the specific policy matters and the religious underpinnings of the bishops’ approach to the desired legal reform. You can go there to print out a postcard to be mailed to your senator or representative, urging a just and compassionate reform. The USCCB’s “Justice for Immigrants” initiative also has a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.


Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, who heads the USCCB’s Committee on Migration, has spoken out clearly and unambiguously on this matter. “Each day in our parishes, social service programs, hospitals, and schools, we witness the human consequences of a broken immigration system…without positive change to our immigration laws, we cannot help our brothers and sisters. Simply put, the status quo is morally unacceptable. This suffering must end.”



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