‘We can do better’

United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño recently declared that just comprehensive immigration reform must include the reunification of families. She said keeping families apart is a sin.

Carcaño, resident bishop of the California-Pacific Conference, made her declaration during a conference phone call for the press on April 3 to urge the so-called Senate “Gang of Eight” to protect and promote family-focused immigration reform.

Bishop Minerva Carcaño

Bishop Carcaño

Faith in Public Life hosted the press teleconference with key faith leaders and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. The purpose was to warn Congress that keeping families separated by restricting family visa categories is unacceptable. Faith and labor leaders were joined by educators and government diplomats on the conference call held in anticipation of an immigration framework from the “Gang of Eight” that would reportedly inflict further, undue harm on aspiring American families by limiting family visas.

Members of the “Gang of Eight” are the following: Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.; Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.; Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

The momentum for a bipartisan agreement is encouraging, according to Faith in Public Life, but unfortunately some senators have proposed eliminating family visas for siblings and adult children of U.S. citizens. The Interfaith Immigration Coalition, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Justice for Immigrants campaign, and the Evangelical Immigration Table all list family unity as a core priority.

The United Methodist Church's Council of Bishops, Interagency TaskForce on Immigration and General Board of Church & Society all consider family unity an essential art of comoprehensive immigration reform.

A sin

Participants in the press conference were Richard Trumka, president, AFL-CIO; Bishop Kirk Smith, Episcopal Diocese of Arizona; Kevin Appleby, director, Migration Policy & Public Affairs, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Miguel Diaz, Unviersity Professor of Faith & Culture, University of Dayton and U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See (Retired).

“To depend on immigrants for some of the hardest work in this country and then to deny them the opportunity to be reunited with their families is a sin,” Carcaño said. “It is a sin that places immigrants in a sub-category of existence, without the presence, love and support of those they call family.”

“The government should not be in the business of defining a family, according to Smith. He said was concerned that the Church should speak out on these issues of human rights. “These are spiritual issues,” he said. “These are theological and religious matters for me.” The family immigration system is broken, according to Appleby. He criticized the policy rationale attributed to some members of the “Gang of Eight.” “Chain migration is a myth,” he asserted. “We can do better,” Carcaño said. “This is the moment to demonstrate to the world and to our own children the high sacred value of family.” Bishop Carcaño’s statement follows:

Bishop Carcaño on Family Reunification

In February I was privileged to be in Las Vegas to hear President Obama express his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform. He reminded us that the immigrant is us, for we are a nation of immigrants. He further stated that immigrants are helping and will continue to help the U.S. to rebuild its middle class. He introduced us to a DREAMER who already is making contributions to the well-being of his family and his community.

President Obama reminded us that comprehensive immigration reform is not a mere political issue. Comprehensive immigration reform is about men, women and children; about families who are in the U.S. because their hearts, like ours, yearn for food, freedom, opportunity and hope for a better life.

Since the beginning of this nation, immigrant families have contributed to the building of this country. In 2013 immigrant families continue to build our roads and our homes, pick our crops, and care for our children and our aging parents. Too many immigrants do this work that is so critical to our nation and to our citizen families at the expense of being separated from their own families.

To depend on immigrants for some of the hardest work in this country and then to deny them the opportunity to be reunited with their families is a sin; it is a sin that places immigrants in a sub-category of existence, without the presence, love and support of those they call family. Comprehensive immigration reform that is just must include the reunification of families.

It is a sin that places immigrants in a sub-category of existence.

Immigrants should not be used as mere economic tools in our struggling economy. They are human beings of sacred worth; worthy of food and home, education and a good future. And they are worthy of being able to live their lives with their families at their side.

Recently I met an immigrant woman from the Caribbean who has made significant contributions to this country through the profession of nursing. Yet this woman lost her younger brother because she could not bring him to the U.S. He died alone, and she bears the burden of not having been able to help him because of our immigration laws that separate immigrant families. I believe we bear the burden with her.

I know a hard-working immigrant family with three U.S.-born daughters who are smart and dedicated to their studies for they dream of making the world, of making the U.S., a better place. Yet they were denied the opportunity to grow up with their grandmother because of our broken immigration policies; a grandmother who would have made her own contribution to this country through her values of hard work and commitment to family and community.

I met an immigrant man once, walking in the desert of our Southern border with two little children. His wife and the mother of his children had been left behind because of illness. They have not been able to be reunited.

This family’s separation benefits no one. It does not benefit that father struggling to care for his two children. It does not benefit those children to be left without their mother. It does not benefit any of us.

We can do better. This is the moment to demonstrate to the world and to our own children the high sacred value of family. I pray that as we work for comprehensive immigration reform whatever bill comes forth will have a strong family-unification component.

Letter to the Editor