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IMMIGRATION/ Standing With Our Brothers and Sisters

As President Obama and Congress focus on immigration reform, Catholics have an opportunity to assist in fixing the current flawed system, if they stand together. KIM DANIELS

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In Tuesday’s ( February 12 –ed) State of the Union address, President Obama recognized that “our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants” and that “right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s Republican response — given in both English and Spanish — took up immigration reform as well. After speaking movingly of his own parents’ immigrant experience, Rubio noted that economic growth depends on “a legal immigration system that allows us to attract and assimilate the world’s best and brightest” and a “responsible, permanent solution to the problem of those who are here illegally.

Meanwhile, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., went out of his way to call President Obama’s comments on immigration reform “measured” and “productive,” noting that it was “an area [where] we have a good chance of getting something done.” Even Sen. Rand Paul’s Tea Party response recognized that “we must be the part that sees immigrants as assets, not liabilities.”

Regardless of politics, all agree that our immigration system needs fixing. While the details have yet to be hammered out, a bipartisan Senate group has already arrived at a general reform framework, and similar bipartisan proposals are circulating in the House as well.

Catholics have serious differences with President Obama on fundamental issues like abortion, marriage and religious liberty. But we shouldn’t let those differences prevent us from coming together where we can.

We’re an immigrant Church whose bishops have long been leaders on this issue. Answering the Gospel call to welcome the stranger, Catholic social-service groups across the country have years of practical experience serving immigrants’ day-to-day needs. And it’s largely our Catholic brothers and sisters who suffer under our current flawed policy.

Catholics should stand together to bring our teachings, experience and, most of all, our faith to the national conversation on immigration reform. Catholic themes of family, solidarity with the vulnerable and the dignity of work resonate across political lines and have particular relevance here. While economic issues and border security are important concerns, Catholics have a particular role to play in raising awareness of the moral issues at stake.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, the chair of the bishops’ Committee on Migration, reminds us that “millions of persons remain in the shadows, without legal protection and marginalized from society.”  Catholics can help ensure that such human suffering does not get lost in the conversation. Of course, as Catholics, we also respect the rule of law.