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Immigration reform needs legislative involvement, archbishop says

While the United States is in urgent need of immigration reform, changes should be made through the legislative process, Archbishop Samuel Aquila noted in the wake of President Barack Obama’s executive action last week that offered some temporary relief to an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants who live in fear of deportation.

On Nov. 20, the president announced that he would stay the deportation of undocumented immigrant parents for up to three years, and allow them to work legally. To be eligible, the applicants must have lived in the U.S. for at least five years, have children who are citizens or legal residents, pass criminal background check and agree to pay taxes.

The archbishop told the Denver Catholic Register that the Church “supports any measure that respects the dignity of the human person.”

“Even though illegal immigrants have failed to observe our immigration laws,” he continued, “they do not lose their God-given dignity as children of the Father. Our laws should reflect this reality, while also allowing for our country to enforce legitimate border controls.”

The archbishop noted, however, that “society is better served when the legislative process operates as it is meant to—meaning all branches of the government have time to review any proposal, debate its merits and make necessary changes.”

“We also need legislators to make decisions and act on legislation even if it is a difficult issue,” he added.

The president said he would also increase border security and continue to deport more recent immigrants who had crossed illegally. His executive action did not grant any path to citizenship for undocumented persons, or give them access to welfare benefits.

“I am deeply joyful for the hundreds of thousands of families who will benefit from this decision of the president,” said Luis Soto, executive director of Centro San Juan Diego and the Hispanic Ministry Office. “Those who will benefit are working families who are only seeking the good of their loved ones. The families won’t fear deportation and the efforts of the government will focus on criminals and not on the separation of families.”

“It’s also bittersweet,” he noted, “because we know that this is not a solution to the immigration crisis in this country. This does not represent status for those who qualify.”

In October 2013, Archbishop Aquila and Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs issued a pastoral letter on immigration, which outlines seven key principles to keep in mind for any discussion on immigration reform. That letter can be found at www.archden.org/archbishop. Click on “pastoral letters.”

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