WASHINGTON DC (MetroCatholic) – Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, expressed the Committee’s support for the Reuniting American Families Act (S. 1085) introduced May 20. He did so in a June 2 letter to Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
           
The Act proposes reforms to the family-based immigration system that would allow immigrant families to more quickly reunite in the United States.
           
“Family reunification has represented the cornerstone of the U.S. immigration system, and should remain its central tenet in the future,” Bishop Wester said.  He stressed that the United States “should resist proposals which would erode the family-based immigration system.” 
           
Bishop Wester emphasized the importance of ensuring that the nuclear family stays together. “It is extremely important that barriers that keep the nuclear family—husband, wife and child—divided are removed as soon as possible,” he said, adding that S. 1085 “achieves this goal.”
           
Bishop Wester also issued a second letter indicating that the bishops’ Committee on Migration is not supporting similar legislation in the House.  In a June 2 letter to Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), Bishop Wester wrote: “As you know, the USCCB supported H.R. 6638, similar legislation that you introduced during the 110th Congress.  Unfortunately, however, while the bishops support many of the provisions in the Reuniting Families Act, your decision to include in the bill the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would provide marriage-like immigration benefits to same sex relationships, makes it impossible for the bishops to support this year’s version of your bill.”
           
Bishop Wester noted that UAFA “would erode the institution of marriage and family” and called it “a position that is contrary to the very nature of marriage which pre-dates the Church and the state.”  Consequently, he indicated that the Committee is instead offering its strong endorsement to the Senate version.
           
Among other provisions, S. 1085 would enable the immediate relatives (husbands, wives, and children) of legal permanent residents to legally enter the country more quickly; recapture family visas from prior years that were lost to bureaucratic delay; reduce family-visa backlogs from sending countries; and ensure that the widows and orphans of legal permanent residents are able to remain in the United States.

Bishop Wester also said that “Positive changes in the family-based immigration categories, such as those included in S. 1085, should be a central feature of any comprehensive immigration reform effort.”

Full text of the letters are included below.

June 2, 2009

Honorable Robert Menendez
United States Senate
528 Senate Hart Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Menendez:

On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, I write to offer our support for S. 1085, the Reuniting American Families Act.  The legislation would make important and long overdue changes to the family-based immigration system, ensuring that families are reunited in an efficient and timely manner.

Family reunification has represented the cornerstone of the U.S. immigration system, and should remain its central tenet in the future.  Throughout U.S. history, immigrant families have helped build our nation by starting businesses, strengthening local communities, and helping to integrate their members and others into American society.  In our view, our country should enhance opportunities for families to remain together and should resist proposals which would erode the family-based immigration system.

Despite our nation’s traditional emphasis on family immigration, too often our current system keeps families apart for years.  S. 1085 would improve the family-based immigration system by removing the annual cap on the number of visas which allow immediate family members to reunite with legal permanent residents.  It is extremely important that barriers that keep the nuclear family—husband, wife, and child—divided are removed as soon as possible.  The legislation achieves this goal while preserving the ability of other close family members, including siblings of United States citizens, to reunite with their loved ones and without eroding the institution of marriage and family.

The USCCB strongly believes that the U.S. immigration system should be reformed.  Positive changes in the family-based immigration categories, such as those included in S. 1085, should be a central feature of any comprehensive immigration reform effort.  

We applaud your introduction of this legislation and will work to help get it enacted into law. 

Sincerely,

Most Reverend John C. Wester
Bishop of Salt Lake City, Utah
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration

 

June 2, 2009

Honorable Mike Honda
United States House of Representatives
1713 Longworth House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative Honda:

On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, I write to offer our views on the Reuniting Families Act, which you have indicated you will introduce in the 111th Congress.  As you know, the USCCB supported H.R. 6638, similar legislation that you introduced during the 110th Congress.  Unfortunately, however, while the bishops support many of the provisions in the Reuniting Families Act, your decision to include in the bill the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would provide marriage-like immigration benefits to same sex relationships, makes it impossible for the bishops to support this year’s version of your bill.

Family reunification has represented the cornerstone of the U.S. immigration system, and should remain its central tenet in the future.  Throughout U.S. history, immigrant families have helped build our nation by starting businesses, strengthening local communities, and helping to integrate their members and others into American society.  In our view, our country should enhance opportunities for families to remain together and should resist proposals which would erode the family-based immigration system.  That is why we so strongly supported H.R. 6638 during the 110th Congress.  However, including UAFA in the Reuniting Families Act would erode the institution of marriage and family by according marriage-like immigration benefits to same sex relationships, a position that is contrary to the very nature of marriage which pre-dates the Church and the state. 

As a result of your decision to include UAFA in your 111th Congress version of the Reuniting Families Act, the bishops have instead strongly endorsed S. 1085, the Senate version of the Reuniting Families Act.  Introduced in the Senate by Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), S. 1085 would improve the family-based immigration system by removing the annual cap on the number of visas which allow immediate family members to reunite with legal permanent residents.  It is extremely important that barriers that keep the nuclear family—husband, wife, and child—divided are removed as soon as possible.  The legislation achieves this goal while preserving the ability of other close family members, including siblings of United States citizens, to reunite with their loved ones and without eroding marriage and family.

Despite our nation’s traditional emphasis on family immigration, too often our current system keeps families apart for years. The USCCB strongly believes that the U.S. immigration system should be reformed.  Positive changes in the family-based immigration categories, such as those included in S. 1085, should be a central feature of any comprehensive immigration reform effort.

We applaud your long commitment to reforming the United States family-based immigration system and stand ready to work with you to achieve urgently needed reforms to that system.  We do not, however, support providing marriage-like benefits to same-sex relationships.  Consequently, we cannot support the version of the Reuniting Families Act that you are contemplating introducing in the 111th Congress.

Sincerely,

Most Reverend John C. Wester
Bishop of Salt Lake City, Utah
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration (0)

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