Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson testified on behalf of the USCCB before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security on February 11, proving the point of Fr. Louis Arceneaux, C.M in his article that the U. S. Bishops want us to advocate with our government leaders. Dan Torrington, Tucson Diocesan Council President, said: “Here is a Catholic Bishop telling Congress to pick the moral path. Not a path prescribed by man-made laws, but the path taught by Holy Scripture. We too should being telling our elected representatives to follow the moral path. Today is the time to write to our representatives ... that we want a compassionate immigration bill, by July 4th”.
In his testimony, Bishop Kicanas opposed the three proposed “enforcement-only bills”, because they would harm immigrant and refugee children; criminalize undocumented persons and those who provide them with basic assistance, including religious and church workers; and allow states and localities to create and enforce their own immigration laws. In his statement, Bishop Kicanas said that the three proposed bills “would take our nation in the wrong direction”. Instead, he urged the subcommittee to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation, including a path to citizenship for the undocumented.
“Mr. Chairman, we believe these bills would not fix our immigration system,” Bishop Kicanas said. “Rather, they would make it less just and would undermine our nation’s moral authority, both domestically and globally.” Bishop Kicanas indicated the provisions in the three bills, which would harm immigrant and refugee children, including the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, affecting 600,000 children, and the repeal of protections for unaccompanied alien children fleeing violence in Central America, subjecting them to return to possible harm without the benefit of an immigration hearing.
“Our country is judged by how we treat the most vulnerable and the removal of protections from children – both those in the DACA program and those seeking refuge – flies against human decency and violates human dignity. We should not punish these children, who themselves are innocent and are only seeking opportunity and safety.”
Finally, Bishop Kicanas pointed to the provisions in the Secure and Fortify Enforcement (SAFE) Act, which would criminalize undocumented persons and those who transport them, including religious and lay faith-based workers, to a
hospital, soup kitchen, or Mass.
Citing how similar provisions in a 2006 bill sparked protests across the country, Bishop Kicanas asked: “As a nation, do we want to go down this road again? Do we want to criminalize millions of persons who have built equities in this country,
jail them, and separate them from their families? Instead of fixing a broken system, would we want to jail nuns and other good Samaritans who are simply aiding their fellow human beings, consistent with their faith?”
“Mr. Chairman,” Bishop Kicanas concluded, “the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the people of many faith communities, and the majority of Americans were disappointed that comprehensive immigration reform legislation was not
passed in the 113th Congress. You once again have the opportunity to fix the broken system in the 114th Congress. We stand ready to work with you toward this goal.”
Bishop Kicanas’ full written statement is available at: