The Catholic bishops of Michigan have voiced “deep concern” about the effectiveness of the U.S. immigration system and the lack of a consistent federal policy. They said failed policy, not undocumented immigrants, should be blamed for immigration problems.
“We encourage members of the Michigan Legislature to reject measures that impugn immigrants—especially the undocumented; and we encourage the Michigan congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. to contribute to federal efforts that seek to fix the nation’s immigration system,” the seven bishops of the Michigan Catholic Conference said in a July 19 statement.
They acknowledged the state’s authority to enact its own legislation, but they advised that these policies are “more appropriately addressed” by national immigration authorities and the U.S. Congress.
If Michigan policymakers do debate immigration reform, the bishops said, any measures must strive to uphold the human dignity of all persons and “work against any injustice which would compromise the dignity of immigrants.” Immigration measures must “promote and give priority to the reunification of families” and must recognize the “rich contribution to the community” by immigrants who live and work there.
“We support the positive impact migrant communities have made in our country, and especially in our state. We recognize the right of our country to regulate its own borders to control immigration,” the bishops explained. “We believe that borders must be regulated with justice and mercy as people have a God-given right to migrate when necessary to sustain their lives and their families.”
They said they empathize with U.S.-born children whose parents are deported while they are still minors.
They added that an “ineffective immigration system” has in some cases led to negative effects such as “increased crime and a proliferation of the drug trade.”
But it is “unfair and mistaken” to blame undocumented residents for “problems more accurately attributed to a failed policy.”
The bishops endorsed a “concerted effort to find a pathway toward citizenship” for the undocumented who have “contributed to the common good.”
Some Republican legislators in the Michigan legislature have proposed anti-immigration bills. One would require public sector employers to check a prospective worker’s eligibility to be employed in the U.S.
Another proposal, similar to a controversial measure passed in Arizona, would require law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of people they approach for an offense whom they suspect to be in the U.S. illegally. The legislation would require government agencies to verify the immigration status of people over age 18 who apply for federal, state or local benefits, Fox News reports.
Gov, Rick Snyder, a Republican, said that an Arizona-like law would “encourage a divisive atmosphere.”
On July 18 he joined business leaders, foundation leaders and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a Wayne State University conference on immigration and Michigan’s economic future.
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