In immigration update, bishop says there’s little progress on reform front

By Rhina Guidos | Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE (CNS) — Even though pushing for reforms in the U.S. immigration system has been a priority, “as we know, not much has happened,” Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington said Nov. 16.

The bishop, who is the outgoing chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops migration committee, made the remarks in a presentation at the bishops’ annual fall general assembly.

Lack of bipartisan support has impeded relief for a swath of migrant populations seeking to permanently legalize their status in the country, he said.

Yet as difficult as reform seems, “we, as the church, must continue to support” policy efforts to help those who still live “in the shadows,” who lack a way to stay and work in the country legally, he said.

Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, attends a Nov. 16, 2022, session of the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

The Catholic Church in the U.S., however, has been active in helping Afghans and Ukrainians seeking refuge in the U.S. through a variety of immigration programs that have allowed them in.

From staff to volunteers, Catholics have helped both populations in various refugee facilities, including on military bases as well as parishes, he said.

“I’m proud of the staff and volunteers in particular,” he said, adding that a variety of Catholic organizations have provided programs to comfort children and adults who have had to flee their home countries.

But he also encouraged the bishops gathered in Baltimore to consider taking in a Ukrainian family in their respective dioceses as the war continues, and a cold winter will send many of them fleeing the country under attack by Russia.

“With winter upon us and with significant damage to infrastructure, numbers are rising,” he said. “I ask you to open your hearts to our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and encourage the faithful in your diocese to do the same. Let us be messengers of Christ in this way.”

Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., known as CLINIC, also addressed the body of bishops to share efforts by the organization to serve immigrant men and women religious in obtaining religious worker visas.

Venezuelan migrants stand in a camp on the banks of the Rio Grande in Ciudad Ju·rez, Mexico, Nov. 14, 2022. Some of the migrants who had crossed into the U.S. illegally were expelled under Title 42, and others had not yet crossed into the U.S. when the Biden administration began implementing the health care rule used by the Trump administration. (CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters)

“We are the experts in that area of the law,” she explained. “When a foreign-born priest, brother or sister is unable to obtain legal status and they need to carry out their mission in the United States, your community suffers from lack of pastoral care or other types of services they provide,” such as education, health care, spiritual or social services.

When there were significant delays in visa processing for religious workers in the last few years, “we released a policy brief in late 2021, which drew special attention to the backlog and processing delays (for) religious workers,” she said.

“We are happy to say,” she added, “that through our relentless advocacy, several of the recommendations we made have since been addressed by (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services).”

She also spoke of how CLINIC, which she described as “the largest nonprofit immigration law firm in the country since our founding nearly 35 years ago” by U.S. bishops, is key in helping low-income migrants obtain legal representation.

“We represent the church’s primary effort to respond to the legal needs of our immigrant community members, needs that are growing more acute each year as our outdated immigration system is straining and cracking under pressure,” she said.

“As pastors, I am sure you hear of these needs, and you are grieved by the suffering of immigrant families in your communities,” Gallagher said. “We know that all of you are experiencing the impact of unmet immigration legal needs directly, not only for the members of your flock, but also for members of your own religious communities.”

Author: Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ news and information service.

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