A resounding “no,” said Archbishop José Gomez, should be the answer to keeping a “permanent underclass” that does not have the same rights as the rest of the U.S. population, to family separation and to the lack of legal protection to immigrants.Participating in a mid-morning June 10 immigration reform press conference in San Diego in his role as chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration, the archbishop was joined by Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, board member of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC), and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of USCCB’s Communications Committee and consultant to the Migration Committee.Also present at the parish hall of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, located in a less fortunate area where most parishioners are immigrants with U.S.-born children, were Coadjutor Bishop of San Diego Cirilo Flores and Bishops Richard Garcia of Monterey and Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas.The bishops, participating in the June 10-14 U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual spring meeting in San Diego, urged Congress to approve an “effective legalization process with path to citizenship,” paired with family unity, which Bishop Soto labeled as the “cornerstone of the system.”“Families are separated, migrant workers are exploited, and our fellow human beings die in the desert,” said Archbishop Gomez. “This suffering must end,” he said emphatically.Ana Laura Nu√±ez, a university student who recently was accredited legal status through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, shared from the podium how her family is separated by the deportation of her mother, who now lives across the border.“But I don’t want to leave this country because it is the country that I see as my own,” she said.Bishop Soto remarked that the reform will fail if the bill does not include resources to help immigrants integrate in society.He mentioned three important points the bishops have set as goals for immigration reform: — Accessibility and feasibility of a path to citizenship that accepts an increased number of people.— Family unity, which is the “cornerstone of the system, as it helps the nation economically and socially. We can’t take immigrant labor and deny family unit.” — Mutual border respect. “Our southern border should be a place of mutual support and an extension of hands across boundaries, not a militarized zone. We oppose the acceleration of border enforcement as a prerequisite for a legalization program that includes citizenship. We will resist amends that add harsh enforcement to the bill.”He said there is a need to address issues that lead to global poverty and persecution.After acknowledging that advocates will not let politics get in the way of this “human and moral reality,” Bishop Wester noted that the bishops oppose amendments that do not permit immigrants the right to have benefits such as healthcare and social security.He added that the Church is advocating for an immigration reform that reflects the values of fairness, opportunity and compassion.“The discussion [at the Senate] should reflect compassion already demonstrated by the American people to well-deserved American immigrants,” he said.The Catholic Church is working together with evangelical churches through the leadership coalition Bibles, Business and Badges, said Bishop Soto, answering a question from activist Enrique Morones, founder of nonprofit Border Angels, about interreligious advocacy.“Some evangelical churches are getting more vocal,” said the bishop, “it is important to work together on these issues.”Parishioners Catalina, Maria and Isaura of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which hosted the press conference, said that if it were not for the church they would not have anywhere to go in times of despair. The three have a mix of U.S.-born children with others who have gained legal status through the Deferred Action.They are hopeful the reform will pass, said the women, who have lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years each. And if the bill is not approved, they said they would still like to remain in the country. “Because of our children,” the married women said almost in unison. {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0614/immigration/{/gallery}