Washington D.C., Nov 21, 2014 / 03:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration was met with both praise and concern from Catholic groups, who emphasized that more must be done to find long-term solutions for a broken immigration system.
“I am happy that some temporary relief is being offered to help parents and children who right now are living in daily fear that their families will be broken up by arrests and deportations,” said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, the highest-ranking Hispanic bishop in the U.S.
However, he cautioned, “the relief is not permanent and the problems are still not fixed.”
On Thursday night, President Obama announced that he would stay the deportation of certain undocumented immigrant parents for up to three years, allowing them to work legally. Eligibility requirements include having lived in the U.S. for at least five years, having children who are U.S. citizens or legal residents, passing a criminal background check and agreeing to pay taxes.
Roughly 4 million people will likely qualify for this measure, while thousands of others will benefit from other changes. The president extended benefits of temporary residence to more children of undocumented immigrants, expanding the eligibility for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and extending their temporary stay from two to three years.
In addition, the president said he would increase border security resources and deport those who had illegally crossed the border recently. He said he would focus government enforcement resources on criminals and those who threaten security.
Archbishop Gomez welcomed the actions as pro-family but emphasized that much more must be done for immigrant families.
Similarly, leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops welcomed the deferred deportations while stressing the need for “a more humane view of immigrants and a legal process that respects each person’s dignity, protects human rights, and upholds the rule of law.”
“They [the bishops] welcome the executive action in the sense that it would ease some of the separation of families here,” Ashley Feasley, the bishops’ Migration & Refugee Services immigration policy advisor told CNA. She added that “the bishops are still advocating for working with Congress for a more permanent solution.”
In a statement responding to the president’s announcement, Archbishop Gomez insisted that “the President’s actions today are no substitute for the comprehensive immigration reform our nation needs.”
“Too many families are being torn apart by deportations, uncertainty about their status, and delays in our visa process that can take years, even decades. Too many men and women who are immigrants are being exploited in the workplace and forced to live in society’s shadows,” he stated.
The announcement of the executive order was met with criticism from members of the Republican Party, who said that it was an overstep of presidential authority that would encourage continued illegal immigration, with negative social consequences.
CatholicVote.org, a group that works to promote Catholic principles in public life, voiced wariness about the precedent that could be set by the executive order.
“We support immigration reform. But strongly oppose President Obama’s executive action announced last night,” the group said in an email to its members.
It warned that if a president “may selectively enforce laws based on his or her political preferences (even policies we agree with) – our nation is in trouble.”
Acknowledging the obligation for Catholics to respect the human dignity of each person, Catholic Vote said that the border situation illustrates a need for real reform.
“Children are being led by criminals across the border, families are being torn apart, and gang and drug violence is rampant. It’s disgusting and it’s unsustainable,” the group said, arguing that if the GOP attempts to stall the executive order through a funding decision, they should also offer “reform proposals of their own.”
The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., also pushed for a long-term solution to keep families together.
“The administration’s decision will improve the lives of millions of immigrants who are already here, building communities and supporting families,” said executive director Jeanne M. Atkinson.
“However, administrative relief is no substitute for legislative reform. We need a permanent fix to the immigration system that can only be achieved through bipartisan Congressional action.”
Vatican City, Nov 21, 2014 / 01:14 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis said on Friday that the desire to migrate from one’s homeland is inspired by the search for hope, and encouraged the Church throughout the world to welcome migrants, whose presence helps build up society.
“Notwithstanding new developments and the emergence of situations which are at times painful and even tragic, migration is still an aspiration to hope,” the Pope told participants in the Seventh World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants on Nov. 21.
In his speech for the Nov. 17-21 congress, which focused on the dynamics of cooperation and development in the pastoral care of migrants, the Pope noted how many persons who live in troubled areas leave in search of a better life for their families at the risk of disappointment and failure.
This is caused in large part by the economic crisis currently effecting every country, he said, which includes factors such as “inequality, poverty, overpopulation, the growing need for employment in some sectors of the global job market, disasters caused by climate change, wars and persecution, and the desire of younger people to relocate as they seek new opportunities.”
Despite the challenges involved in migration, the phenomenon has the capacity to improve both the migrant’s native country as well as the one they traveled to from an economic standpoint, the Roman Pontiff noted.
“In effect, receiving nations draw advantages from employing immigrants for production needs and national prosperity, not infrequently filling gaps created by the demographic crisis,” he said.
At the same time, the nations which migrants leave “show a certain reduction in unemployment and, above all, benefit from earnings which are then sent back to meet the needs of families which remain in the country.”
Among the challenges that migrant families face are the effects on children who have grown up without one or both of their parents, the tension on marriages due to long absences of spouses, as well as the difficulty of integrating into a new society, the Pope observed.
He noted how pastoral work in these situations plays a key role in helping cultural dialogue and as well as with legal issues on the part of the migrant, and helps lessen the repercussions on families living without a spouse or parent in the country of origin.
Pope Francis explained that “sadly migrants often experience disappointment, distress, loneliness and marginalization” due to the fact that they are both uprooted from their home and need to integrate.
The Church, he said, is a community that seeks to engage and welcome migrants, and encouraged parishes to promote pastoral plans that both evangelize and support migrants throughout their journey from their country of origin to the receiving country.
“The Church also seeks to be a source of hope,” the Bishop of Rome explained, noting how she develops programs of education, defends migrants’ rights and “offers assistance, including material assistance to everyone, without exception, so that all may be treated as children of God.”
He spoke of the need to adopt an “integrated perspective” when encountering migrants, which is capable of seeing and valuing their potential, rather that viewing them “as a problem to be confronted and resolved.”
In order to fully develop each person must be assured of their ability to participate in the life of a community, Pope Francis observed, adding that this is even more important in a Christian community, where strangers do not exist.
“Beyond being a community of the faithful that sees the face of Jesus Christ in its neighbor, (the Church) is a Mother without limits and without frontiers,” he said, noting how she constantly strives to build a culture of solidarity “where no one is considered useless, out of place or disposable.”
While migrants are capable of expanding the bounds of fraternity, their presence is also a reminder of the ongoing need to fight inequality, injustice and various abuses, the Roman Pontiff continued.
He concluded his speech by praying for the protection of the Holy Family, “who themselves experienced the difficulty of exile in Egypt.”