Iowa’s four Catholic bishops have issued a statement of support for immigration reform.
“I think it was a pretty strong statement in the sense that they’re really asking people to get involved and send a message in to the House of Representatives,” says Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.
An immigration reform bill cleared the U.S. Senate in June, but has stalled in the House. The bishops’ statement calls the nation’s current immigration system “broken” and notes immigrants have to wait in line, sometimes for over 15 years, to have a visa request processed.
“Immigration reform has been a priority of Catholic bishops for many years now and I think they see the debate that’s taking place in congress and in our country and I think they felt that they wanted to inform that Catholic people about what their opinion is about it,” Chapman says. “and encourage people to contact their members of congress.”
The bishops’ statement urges Catholic to “live out the scriptural commandment to ‘welcome the stranger’ and defend the God-given dignity” of every human.
“Certainly from the bishops’ perspective, all of our positions stem from scripture and from the church’s social teaching,” Chapman says. “…In this respect, they feel that immigrants who move here in many cases just trying to feed their families deserve a chance to become citizens after going through a process and we see that as a matter of justice.”
The bishop of the Catholic Diocese in Sioux City issued a written statement of his own in July, saying he was “disappointed” by Congressman Steve King’s comments about immigrants.
The statement from all four bishops, including Archbishop Michael Jackels — the top Catholic official in Iowa — urges Catholics to send a message to Iowa’s four congressmen, urging them to “move the process forward.” A year and a half ago, nuns from 10 religious orders in the region paid to put pro-immigration reform billboards up in Cedar Rapids, Clinton, Des Moines, Dubuque, Sioux City and the Quad Cities. The billboards took a passage from the Gospel of Matthew and substituted the word “immigrant” for “stranger” so the verse read: “I was an immigrant and you welcomed me.”
According to the Iowa Catholic Conference, there are nearly half a million Catholics living in Iowa.
Read the bishops’ statement below:
The Catholic bishops of Iowa have released the following statement on immigration reform:
Once again, Congress is considering the reform of our country’s broken immigration system.
Many immigrants have been forced to leave their homes and countries in order to provide even for the most basic needs of themselves and their families. The desperation of their circumstances does not correspond to the inordinate length of time (sometimes over 15 years) required to wait in line for the present system to process a visa request.
We believe that those already here, for the sake of family unity and being humane, should receive special consideration that would include eventual citizenship. We support measures that help secure our border but respect human rights and human life. We need a system that is humane for workers and fair to employers.
While Catholics may disagree within the limits of justice on the specific approach to reforming the immigration system, we must agree as a people of faith to live out the scriptural commandment to “welcome the stranger” and defend the God-given dignity of every person.
We urge all Iowans to remember their history as immigrants as we work together towards a fair and compassionate resolution of this problem. We encourage members of the Catholic community to contact their members of Congress this month, especially in the House of Representatives, in support of immigration reform legislation consistent with the principles of justice. One easy way to do this is to visit www.justiceforimmigrants.org and send a message to your member of Congress to encourage him to move the process forward.
Most Rev. Michael Jackels, Archbishop of Dubuque
Most Rev. R. Walker Nickless, Bishop of Sioux City
Most Rev. Martin Amos, Bishop of Davenport
Most Rev. Richard Pates, Bishop of Des Moines