By Allison Posner
On January 11-12, 2012, CLINIC and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) hosted a conference to address the most pressing immigration enforcement issues states will face as they begin their 2012 legislative sessions. The conference was attended by over 230 people from 43 states who work on behalf of immigrants in their communities. Participants included bishops, priests, men and women religious, Catholic advocates, communications professionals and individuals who serve immigrants in their communities. They had a chance to speak directly with immigration experts and Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice officials and came away with the most up-to-date information as well as tools and strategies to bring home to their communities.
Most Reverend John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City, welcomed participants to the conference, saying that he believes “that the work the church is doing on immigration on a state and local level – both in the past and in the months ahead – could make all the difference in how our nation eventually solves” this country’s immigration problems. He described his role in signing the Utah Compact – for which business, religious, law enforcement and political leaders came together to outline a common set of principles – to guide the state’s decision makers on decisions relating to immigration and immigrants.
Bishop Wester thanked attendees for the work they do on behalf of immigrants and urged them to continue to “fight the battle locally and remain a voice of faith in the debate.”
Panels at the event included discussions of:
- Immigration laws and their impact on the Church, with experts on harboring, transporting, barriers to marriage, separation of families, and the impact on clergy and seminarians;
- Federal and state immigration enforcement partnerships with representatives from the Department of Homeland Security;
- State immigration laws, including E-Verify, education, public benefits, and omnibus enforcement measures;
- Communicating the message;
- Lessons learned from states that have already faced immigration legislation; and
- Proactive strategies for the future.
Look for materials from the conference, including video of some of the panel sessions, on CLINIC’s website soon!