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 CNS Story:

WENSKI-IMMIGRATION Oct-20-2008 (460 words) xxxn

Bishop Wenski seeks balanced, humane immigration policy in 2008

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Lamenting that illegal immigration has been largely unaddressed during the presidential campaign, Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla., said the new White House administration and Congress must confront the issue and develop a consistent, effective and humane policy that bridges political divisions.

Writing in The Washington Post Oct. 20, Bishop Wenski, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace and a consultant to the conference's Committee on Migration, said the current enforcement-only approach to illegal immigration is ineffective and contrary to national interests.

"In truth, intermittent work-site raids, increased local law enforcement involvement and the creation of a wall along parts of our southern border, among other efforts, have done little to address the challenges presented by illegal immigration," Bishop Wenski wrote in an opinion piece in the daily newspaper.

While high-profile, lightning-fast work-site raids across the country "meet the political need to show government's law enforcement's capabilities," they have had a minimal impact on the number of undocumented workers in the country, he said.

Such efforts have done little more than cause what Bishop Wenski termed "dislocation and disruption in immigrant communities" while victimizing permanent U.S. residents and citizens, including children.

In addition, he said the involvement of local law enforcement officers in immigration enforcement has diminished the trust between the immigrant community and local authorities.

With a lack of trust among immigrants comes fear and damage to long-term relationships, the bishop added.

"Not only do legal immigrants worry that a loved one may be swept away in a work-site raid or after a knock at the door at home, they are fearful for their own futures -- and the futures of their children -- in the United States. This is not the way to encourage integration and responsible citizenship," Bishop Wenski said.

It is doubtful that stringent enforcement actions will lead to a mass exodus of illegal and legal immigrants, as some organizations that oppose immigration hope, Bishop Wenski said.

"What (those opposing immigration) do not acknowledge is that 70 percent of the undocumented have lived in this country for five years or longer and have no home to return to," he said. "These people identify themselves more as Americans than anything else and would rather live here in the shadows than take their U.S.-citizen children back to a place they do not know."

Not addressing the immigration issue will elevate tensions in states and local communities and "tacitly affirm the acceptance of a hidden and permanent underclass in our country," the bishop added.

He stressed that a broad and balanced immigration policy must be enacted to fill the "policy vacuum" that congressional inaction in 2007 left behind.


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