The United States bishops have asked Congress to compromise on immigration reform to give legal protections for undocumented youth, known as “Dreamers,” and ensure respect for human dignity and families at U.S. borders.
A June 19 letter to the House of Representatives stated that the bishops cannot endorse changes to the immigration system that “detrimentally impact families and the vulnerable” as contained in new legislation brought before the House this week.
“We welcome the opportunity to dialogue with lawmakers and to discuss possible opportunities for further compromise,” wrote Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chairman of the bishops’ committee on migration.
The letter stated immigration legislation should be “bipartisan, provide Dreamers with a path to citizenship, be pro-family, protect the vulnerable and be respectful of human dignity with regard to border security and enforcement.”
Vasquez also reminded House members that family separation at the border can be ended without legislation at the discretion of the administration.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order June 20 ending the policy of family separation, except when there is a risk to the child's welfare. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan indicated that the lower chamber will vote Thursday on an immigration bill.
H.R. 6136 on border security and immigration reform was introduced June 19 by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and includes a proposal of a framework for Dreamers potentially to receive permanent residence and later citizenship in the U.S.
The framework would include the same criteria outlined in the DACA program, initiated by President Obama in 2012, which postponed deportation of undocumented immigrants under the age of 30, who had been brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 and lived in the U.S. since June 2007.
The new bill would require applicants also to have no more than one non-traffic-related misdemeanor, including for immigration-related offences; and if not a student or primary caregiver, to demonstrate the ability to maintain an income of at least 125 percent of the poverty line.
The new bill is on the schedule to be considered by the House in the coming week, along with H.R. 4760, which was introduced Jan. 10.
Vasquez responded to immigration bill H.R. 4760 in a statement Jan. 10, calling for financially sound, effective, and safe measures to strengthen national security at the U.S. border, emphasizing that Dreamers and their families “deserve certainty, compassion, generosity, and justice.”
He also acknowledged the nation’s right to control its borders, but cautioned against the introduction of “unrelated, unnecessary, or controversial elements of immigration policy — especially those that jeopardize the sanctity of families or unaccompanied children — into the bipartisan search for a just and humane solution for the Dreamers.”