Bishops Call for End to ICE Raids
Bishops call for end to ICE raids BY MARCIA GRANN O'BRIEN, EDITOR Rhode Island Catholic
WASHINGTON: Calling for an end to government raids on workplaces where suspected illegal immigrants are employed, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement Sept. 10 calling on President George Bush and the Department of Homeland Security to instead “turn their energies to building support for a comprehensive overhaul of our broken immigration system. At the noon press conference, which included journalists from around the country via a telephone hook-up, the bishops emphasized, "We do not question the right and duty of our government to enforce immigration laws. But the enforcement raids, involving hundreds of law enforcement officials using weapons neither effective nor humane, they said. Chief spokesman was the Most Rev. John C. Wester, bishop of Salt Lake City and chair of the USCCB, who said that many of our parishes have responded heroically to the devastation caused by the raids, including the separation of U.S. citizen/children from their parents, the dislocation and disruption of immigrant communities, and the victimization of U.S. permanent residents and citizens, including children. He cited the concerns voiced by Pope Benedict XVI, who spoke of the need to protect families and to address the issue regionally and internationally by examining the root causes of why persons leave their homelands to find work. The USCCB has been working to change the direction of U.S. policy since the raids began some 15 months ago. The Rev. James A. Tamayo, bishop of Laredo, Texas, a diocese located on the U.S.-Mexico border, said, "The Catholic Church has always supported the right of a nation to protect its sovereignty and to secure its borders." But the raids, he said, violate the basic God-given rights and dignity of human beings. Noting that many Latino families are of mixed legal status, he said, "Families are the backbone of the Latino culture and Latino communities. As families are destroyed, so are their communities. "As we speak today, Catholic parishes and Catholic Charities agencies throughout the nation are attempting to provide basic survival services; rent, food, transportation, clothes, diapers, prescriptions, legal assistance, help with locating loved ones," said Donald Kerwin, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. He pointed to nearby Fall River, Massachusetts, where Catholic Charities is tending to the needs of immigrant families 16 months after a raid at a textile manufacturing facility in New Bedford. There, and in other towns and cities around the country, from Hattiesburg, Mississippi to Postville, Iowa, the crisis is unending and compounded. Further, Kerwin said, "most of those arrested have been hard-working, self-sacrificing, family-oriented people. One report estimates that at least half of the adults arrested have U.S. citizen children. They are not criminals. They present no national security risk. They provide vivid evidence of the need for an approach to this challenge that is both effective and humane. In response to questions, the bishops said they would be sending statements to both presidential candidates. They declined to express a preference for either Sen. John McCain or Sen. Barack Obama, but indicated a belief that both would be willing to work toward reforming immigration law.
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