Without getting into specifics, a panel of bishops said April 22 that a comprehensive immigration bill introduced the week before is on the right track, though they alluded to some aspects they would like changed.In a teleconference about the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, or S. 744, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York also said the fact that the men believed by police to be the Boston Marathon bombers were immigrants is "a terribly unjust and completely irrational argument" for suggesting immigration reform shouldn't happen.About the same time as the teleconference, the Senate held its second hearing on the bill, with tempers flaring among Judiciary Committee members over comments by some senators linking the bombings with the immigration legislation.Cardinal Dolan, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the connection is flawed for several reasons. First, he said, it's "illogical, unfair and unjust" to label an entire class of hardworking people because of the actions of a few. Second, he said, "good, solid, fair immigration reform" would make enforcement of immigration laws easier, because there would be better records of who the immigrants already here are."We've been through this before," said the cardinal. "When the Irish came, there were people who said 'we can't let those Irish in because of those Molly Maguires.'" He explained that the Molly Maguires were "a tiny minority of Irish who did resort to violence." The Molly Maguires were a secret society that operated in Ireland and the United States and were linked to a string of violent acts in the 19th century."What a travesty it would have been," to deny immigration to other Irish because of a small minority, said Cardinal Dolan, adding that the angle seems to have arisen because opponents of comprehensive immigration reform "will seize on anything."Among concerns with the bill raised by Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City on the teleconference were:— That the requirements for undocumented immigrants to participate in a path to citizenship will leave many behind, said Archbishop Gomez, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Migration. He said the period of time the bill sets out for immigrants who are in the country illegally to get green cards and naturalize — 13 years — is too lengthy and the cutoff date for arrival — Dec. 31, 2011 — "leaves too many behind."— The bill would end a system by which U.S. citizens may petition to bring in certain family members, including siblings.— It includes requirements for certain border security goals to be met before provisions allowing people to legalize their status can kick in. Bishop Wester, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Communications, said 10 years of ramped-up attention to border security hasn't stemmed the tide of immigrants.Enforcement-only approaches "don't work if they're not balanced by humane policies," said Bishop Wester.— The root causes of migration should be included in the bill. "When are we going to address the push factors, people escaping poverty?" asked Bishop Wester. He said attention must be paid to helping people stay in their home countries if they so choose.Bishop Wester said the way to ensure a good immigration reform bill passes is to "get the human story out.""Lots of folks intentionally give wrong and bad information," said Bishop Wester, saying facts get skewed "to foment passion and discord." Much anti-immigrant sentiment is grounded in fear, he added, and that fear is "is put there by people who have an agenda."Cardinal Dolan, whose academic background is in American history, said there have often been spasms of anti-immigrant fervor in the United States, which "at its roots, very often, is anti-Catholic vitriol."He said he sees parallels between historic anti-Catholicism and anti-Muslim sentiment today. Cardinal Dolan said he recently met with some New York Muslim leaders who wanted to learn from the Catholic story of assimilation."They were sincere, he said, “in asking, ‘Tell us how you did it. How did (Catholics) become respected as reliable American citizens without losing the elements of their faith?’"Cardinal Dolan said Catholics should be called upon to keep their antennae up for prejudices against others that mirror the struggles Catholics have historically faced.Respect ‘basic human rights’Last week, following submission of the bill, Archbishop Gomez said U.S. bishops "look forward to carefully examining the legislation and working with Congress to fashion a final bill that respects the basic human rights and dignity of newcomers."He commended the "gang of eight" — a bipartisan panel that crafted legislation that might win the support of both Republicans and Democrats — for their leadership and courage. His April 17 statement went on to enumerate the oft-repeated goals of the bishops for immigration reform: a path to citizenship; improvements in family-based immigration systems; restoration of due process for immigrants; a visa program for low-skilled workers and their families; policies that address the root causes of migration; and the protection of vulnerable populations.Jeanne Atkinson, director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, known as CLINIC, said her organization of local immigration legal services agencies is gearing up to meet an anticipated huge need for legal assistance should the bill pass."The Senate proposed legislation will forever change the lives of 11 million undocumented immigrants who are already here, building communities and supporting families," said Atkinson. "We need a permanent fix to the immigration system, including the ability to provide safe and trustworthy legal immigration services to those of all economic and social strata."Catholic Relief Services called attention to the struggles people face as they migrate and encouraged the Senate to address the economic and social factors that cause people to leave their home countries.A statement from Bill O'Keefe, CRS' vice president for advocacy and government relations, said the agency's work in the world's poorest communities gives it a perspective on why people migrate and "the humanitarian consequences of our broken immigration system." O'Keefe said that in 2009 alone, more than 18,000 would-be migrants were kidnapped on their journey north."Increasingly, youth in urban areas cite violence as one reason for their migration north," he said. And small farmers find increased competition puts them out of work. He said the immigration bill should encourage strategic intervention and partnerships in migrant-sending countries to address the reasons people leave.The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act weighed in at 844 pages. After weeks of reports that it was "nearly finished," it was finally submitted by at 2 a.m. April 17 by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., one of the so-called "gang of eight.”Among other provisions, the bill incorporates the popular DREAM Act, without an upper age limit; would offer a 13-year path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who arrived before 2012; would expand the pool of visas for skilled and unskilled workers; dramatically changes the process for adult children or siblings of legal residents to immigrate; and would create a new set of "triggers" for determining that the border is "secure" before parts of the law may be implemented.Since Latino voter turnout proved to be key to Democrats doing well in the November elections, momentum has been strong in both parties to pass immigration reform. President Barack Obama laid out his principles for reform in January and has been working with stakeholders and political leaders to push for a bill that he said he would like to sign this summer.—CNS{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0426/immigbishops/{/gallery}