21-October-2008 -- Catholic News Agency |

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U.S. Immigration Must Be Addressed in Election, Orlando Bishop States

Washington DC, Oct 21, 2008 (CNA).- Describing the American policy on immigration as “inconsistent, ineffective and, in many cases, inhumane,” Bishop Thomas Wenski wrote in the Washington Post that the current “enforcement-only” policy does not “address the challenges presented by illegal immigration.”

Despite a “torrent of initiatives” aimed to prove that the U.S. can enforce its laws and secure its borders, Bishop Wenski pointed out that Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform because it bowed to a “vocal minority.”

Meanwhile, “intermittent work site raids, increased local law enforcement involvement and the creation of a wall along parts of our southern border, among other efforts, have done little to address the challenges presented by illegal immigration,” the Catholic bishop of Orlando charged.

Referring to worksite raids across the U.S., the bishop explained that this enforcement has “caused dislocation and disruption in immigrant communities and victimized permanent U.S. residents and citizens, including children. The sweeping nature of these raids -- sometimes involving hundreds of law enforcement personnel with weapons -- has made it difficult for those arrested to secure basic due-process legal rights, including access to counsel. Some families have been split up indefinitely.”

However, Wenski said, the greatest problems “are the adverse, long-term effects these policies have had on immigrant communities. The overriding emotion many immigrants feel is fear. Not only do legal immigrants worry that a loved one may be swept away in a work site raid or after a knock at the door at home, they are fearful for their own futures -- and the futures of their children -- in the United States. This is not the way to encourage integration and responsible citizenship.”

“While some organizations that oppose immigration are delighted by this and hope such an atmosphere will lead to a mass exodus of illegal and legal immigrants, they are likely to be disappointed. What they do not acknowledge is that 70 percent of the undocumented have lived in this country for five years or longer and have no home to return to. These people identify themselves more as Americans than anything else and would rather live here in the shadows than take their U.S.-citizen children back to a place they do not know.”

Immigrants are essential to the U.S. for its economic survival. Our economy needs immigrants, the bishop continued. “Opponents like to argue that our economy does not need the work of immigrants, now or in the future.” However, “The Labor Department predicts that in the years ahead, despite the current economic slowdown, a shortage of low-skilled labor will exist in several important industries, for some beginning as early as 2010. As baby boomers begin retiring, immigrants will help support them by paying billions into the Social Security system.”

If this issue is not addressed, Bishop Wenski warned, tensions will elevate “in states and localities, further alienate immigrants and their communities, and tacitly affirm the acceptance of a hidden and permanent underclass in our country.”

In conclusion, the prelate pointed out that an enforcement-only approach to illegal immigration “is ineffective and contrary to our national interests.” When the new administration takes office, they will be forced to make decisions regarding illegal immigrants, otherwise, the American people will be left pondering a wall and wondering why it is not working.”

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