An unnamed Obama administration official has suggested that President Barack Obama will hold a White House Summit with congressional leaders on June 16 to discuss comprehensive immigration reform.
Such reform was promised by Mr. Obama during the presidential campaign and has the support of many in Congress. Immigration reform is long overdue in the United States and President Obama and his allies in Congress must make more than a mere campaign promise but rather a priority.
Several individual bills to reform immigration have already been introduced including the Reuniting Families Act sponsored by Senator Robert Mendendez (D-NJ) which is supported by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Many migrants have been compelled to leave their homelands out of economic necessity in order to get even basic needs for themselves and their families. Many of these migrants are now U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents who have endured years of separation from close family members who they desire to be reunited with in the United States. The backlog of available visas for family members has resulted in some waiting up to fifteen years or more for such visas to become available. Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration stated: ”It is extremely important that barriers that keep the nuclear family—husband, wife and child—divided are removed as soon as possible.” Family reunification must be the cornerstone of any comprehensive reform discussed at the upcoming White House Summit.
As the U.S. Bishops noted in their pastoral letter, Strangers No Longer, the call for comprehensive immigration reform arises “out of the compassion of the bishops as they experience in their local churches loss of life, family separation and destruction, disappearances of entire villages, racism, and indifference to migrants and immigrants.” The dignity of the human person, the rights of migrants, even undocumented migrants, and the importance of family unity must be part of any discussion of immigration reform. President Obama and his congressional allies must not waste more time debating the issue but instead set forth a clear plan for reform of the failed and broken immigration system. Mr. Obama’s campaign promises will only be seen as empty and meaningless sloganeering without any real and constructive reform.
We remind the President and the leaders of Congress of the words that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, proclaimed on the World Day for Migrants and Refugees this past January when he stated: “I encourage individuals, communities and institutions to be generous to all who have left their homeland. May the Father of mercies open our eyes and our hearts to the sufferings and needs of those who have entrusted themselves to our hospitality." Indeed may the eyes and hearts of our national leaders be opened at next week’s White House Summit on Immigration.