I welcome this new bipartisan legislation and I am grateful to Senator Graham and Senator Durbin for their leadership.

This bill is an important first step in the immigration reform our country needs.

It would permanently lift the threat of deportation that right now hangs over the heads of more than 1 million young people who were brought to this country illegally or are living in the homes of undocumented parents.

Under this legislation, these young men and women would now have the chance to earn permanent residency status and eventually to seek citizenship in our country.

This is the right thing to do and the compassionate thing to do.

We are talking about people who have grown up in this country since they were young children. America is all they know. Right now, they exist in a kind of “limbo” without any legal status — though many of them are working hard, going to college and graduate school and law school, even serving in our armed forces.

In my experience, these are good kids who want to use their lives to make a difference in our country. These young men and women want to share the American dream. They exemplify what is best about the immigrant spirit that makes our country exceptional.

It is long past time for us to welcome these young immigrants as citizens and give them the opportunities they need to flourish and to help our country grow. A just and compassionate society cannot continue to punish innocent children for the mistakes of their parents.

So I applaud this new legislation and I pledge my support and the support of the Catholic community here in Los Angeles.

I pray that our leaders in Washington will seize this moment, set aside partisan differences and come together to enact this bill into law quickly. And I pray that this legislation will mark the beginning of a more comprehensive reform of our nation’s immigration system — that secures and protects our borders; that enables us to welcome newcomers who have the character and skills our country needs to grow; and that provides a compassionate solution for those who are undocumented and forced to live in the shadows of our society.