By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor
Catholic leaders in the U.S. have been raising their voices in support of reform of the nation’s immigration laws, as Feet In 2 Worlds has reported in recent weeks. Now, a Vatican news service has issued a report that praises American Catholic bishops for their opposition to “the ineffectiveness and violence” of United States’ immigration measures.
“For many years,” Fides news agency said, “the Catholic Bishops of America have strenuously fought for migrants and against systems of repression, (and have been) actively involved in promoting immigration reforms which encourage legality and respect for human rights.”
The news service, which is run by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, issued the dossier “The Question of Immigration in the United States of America” in late November. [You can get it in a Word document here.]
Fides criticized the failure of immigration laws passed in recent years, such as the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996, which toughened border security and made even minor crimes, like shoplifting, a reason for deportation. The law has for many years been the target of criticism by pro-immigrant advocates, who blame it for causing the separation of many immigrant families.
The Catholic agency also commented on the Integrated Surveillance Information System, or ISIS, for border monitoring:
More than ten years later we can say, figures in hand, that this strategy only increased beyond all measure the quantity of public money invested in border protection, increased the number of persons killed while attempting to cross the border line, enriched human traffickers (smugglers), encouraged in total ambiguity employers who apply norms similar to those of dependence in a regime of slavery, strangle illegal workers with a starvation wage and massacring working-hours, under the blackmail of non-existence.
The dossier also assessed the change in the American government’s approach to immigration and border security after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Those issues, Fides said, became “a political obsession,” which led to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.
“The new Department included the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), powerful investigative branch charged with identifying, investigating and dismantling national security weak points,” it said.
Although attention is focused mainly on citizens of Arab origin and Muslim religion, civil freedom is restricted in many ways, with FBI interception of international telephone calls and e-mail messages, and other repercussions also in areas of “qualified” immigration, scholars, researches, young foreigners studying in America for an advanced degree.
At the same time, President George W. Bush failed in his attempt to see immigration reform passed in Congress. The only immigration-related initiative that was passed in the end, Fides noted, was the one mandating the construction of a fence at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Besides the construction of the wall,” the agency added, “other initiatives taken by the present administration include: higher cost of applications for visas and citizenship and stiffer admission tests, obstacles in daily life of immigrants regarding healthcare, jobs, education.”