The Missionary Society of St. Columban is an international Catholic organization committed to justice, peace and the integrity of creation. Our faith teaches us that we are one human family and we are called to welcome the stranger (Mt 25:35).
In recognition of the migrants and refugees with whom we live and serve in the U.S. and around the world, Columban missionaries are pleased to see the release of the Senate’s bipartisan proposal on immigration reform and to hear the President’s pledge to address our nation’s immigration system. We are especially gratified to see national leaders prioritize immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship and a commitment to family reunification.
We see immigration reform as a critical step towards restoring right relationships with our immigrant sisters and brothers. For nearly 20 years, we have ministered to immigrants on the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico. In our parishes, mission centers, and communities around the country including Texas, California, Nebraska, Illinois, Rhode Island, New York, and Washington D.C., we hear the stories of migrants and their families; we know the violence they suffer. We witness the shadows in which they are forced to live and the pain that family separation has caused. We also see the suffering of immigrants in detention centers and jails whose only crime was being undocumented.
Internationally we are present in Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East, and Oceania. We view U.S. immigration as part of a broader global migration reality. We witness how U.S. policies such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, dollarization, and the Merida Initiative have contributed to instability and insecurity in communities and countries across the globe, causing people to move. We are advocates for the United States to be a good global citizen and restore right relationships both internally and externally.
The current reforms proposed do not meet these goals. We are concerned that the bipartisan framework makes the path to citizenship contingent upon our success in securing our borders and addressing visa overstays. We question who and how border security is and will be defined. Knowing that we have already spent billions of dollars on securing our borders, it is now time to secure the future of the 11 million immigrants living in our country. We must not unnecessarily prolong or block the path to citizenship of immigrants already present, or keep partners, children, and other family members apart any longer.
We question the many stipulations required to earn permanent residency and/or a green card in the United States. Conditions such as additional criminal background and national security checks and high fees and fines do not create a viable and accessible pathway; rather, they establish roadblocks on the ever-lengthening road to citizenship that keep this vulnerable population in the shadows.
We are committed to an immigration policy that addresses the root causes of migration. The current immigration reform proposals fail to adequately address the root causes of migration such as economic policy, climate change, poverty, political conflict, violence of many origins, and persecution that create unlivable conditions at home, forcing people to move and families to separate.
As Catholic missionaries, we dedicate our lives and service to advocating for the dignity and rights of weary and exploited immigrants seeking to work and to contribute to the social fabric of our nation. Lack of legal documentation forces immigrants to live in a culture of fear, insecurity, and vulnerability. This applies especially to immigrants on the Southwest border where mass detainment and deportations, criminalization of migrants, and militarization of the region is widespread.
We look forward to compassionate immigration reform, which seeks justice by granting protection and true legalization (permanent legal status and citizenship), to a person of any country or work industry in a timely manner. We seek reform that reunites families, and not on a temporary basis with guest worker programs. We seek reform which recognizes and addresses the increasing danger of creating a permanent underclass (of immigrants) in our society. Lastly, we seek reform in which all immigrants and their families hold the same freedoms and rights as any citizen of the United States.