Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the president of the US Council of Bishops spoke out on immigration reform Friday saying passing immigration reform is “a moral imperative.” The Catholic Cardinal said that Congress has a “once in a generation chance to fix our broken immigration system.
Cardinal Dolan who is Archbishop of New York City in addition to heading up the U.S., Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote an OP Ed in the New York Daily News on Friday.
“We cannot let this opportunity pass. Immigration reform would help families, it would help our economy and it would improve our security. Most importantly, it’s the right thing to do,” he wrote.
The Senate overwhelmingly passed a bi-partisan immigration reform bill two months ago and sent it to the Republican controlled House of Representatives. So far the House has shown no inclination to even bring a bill up.
The House will only work a total of 9 days in September after a 6-week undeserved vacation in August. In those 9 days, the House must deal with the contentious matter of Syria; it must pass a budget or the government will shut down; and it must deal with raising the debt ceiling. All of these issues are controversial and will consume a great deal of time.
Immigration reform may die a death by the clock in the Republican held House
Cardinal Dolan’s vocal support might help. Dolan and his Bishops have been overwhelmingly pro-Republican for years. The Catholic vote will be critical if Republicans want to re-take the Senate and keep the House in 2014, and win the White House in 2016. Despite opposition from Bishops, Obama won the Catholic vote in 2008 and 2012.
Republicans are on the wrong side of Catholic doctrine on nearly every issue except the four issues that mean the most to Dolan: abortion, contraception, marriage equality, and repealing Obamacare. That is why Dolan’s coming out on immigration reform is both surprising and necessary.
Cardinal Dolan put it this way:
“Pope Francis recently reminded us that “the measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need.” For generations, men and women have come to America’s shores in search of a better life for themselves and their families, and we’re justly proud of our heritage as a nation that welcomes people of good will.
But today, no one can be proud of the enormous underclass of undocumented workers that’s been allowed to form — millions of our neighbors who live on the margins, have their families fractured and are easily exploited.
We can’t be proud of the hundreds of migrants who die in the American desert each year in their quest to support their families back home.
We can’t be indifferent to these profound humanitarian problems. No wonder that, around the country, Catholics and citizens of other creeds are on the front lines in providing a compassionate response, as they were with Rev. Martin Luther King a half-century ago.”
Dolan took a swipe at Republican politicians including the Catholic Congressman Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin:
“Those who caricature these immigrants as “takers” couldn’t be more wrong. The plain fact is that immigrants, including those who are undocumented, make great contributions to our economy. They spend their wages on goods and services and also start their own businesses, driving economic growth and employment in their communities.”
The Cardinal said that our immigration system is broken and it is “time to fix it.”
It will take more than an Op Ed to motivate recalcitrant Republicans in the House to even take up immigration let alone reform it. Experts think if Republicans do anything, it will be to double down on the Senate’s doubling of Obama’s doubling of border security. They are unlikely to do anything else.
Dolan needs to put his money and lobbyists where his mouth is and pressure Republicans to do the “right thing”, as he put it. So far, the Church has used its might and treasure to fight Obamacare, not to help the legal status of immigrants—many of whom are Catholics. Perhaps he'll proclaim a "Fortnight for Immigration Reform" and "Justice Sunday."
We’ll see where this goes, but it is a welcome first baby step.