Local News

Immigration Debate Brings Raleigh Catholic Diocese to Take Public Stand

Posted May 21, 2007
Updated May 22, 2007

— From Capitol Hill to the Triangle, the debate over immigration is heating up.

In Washington on Monday, lawmakers discussed a controversial proposal that its supporters say would steer millions of immigrants toward permanent residency, prevent illegal immigrants from getting jobs and toughen border security.

In Raleigh, the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh outlined the importance of immigration reform.

Bishop Michael Burbidge said he agrees with parts of what has been reported about the bill introduced by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and disagrees with other parts.

Burbidge added the diocese’s public voice to the political debate swirling around the issue of what to do about illegal immigrants already in the country and about the stream of people coming north from Mexico and Latin America.

The bipartisan bill would provide a pathway to citizenship for some 12 million immigrants now in the United States illegally. It also would mandate tougher border security and work place enforcement and provide for a guest worker program.
The bill would allow illegal immigrants to come forward right away, but they could not get visas or begin a path to citizenship until the border security improvements and a high-tech worker identification program were put in place.

After that, illegal immigrants could obtain a renewable "Z visa" that would allow them stay in the country indefinitely. After paying fees and fines totaling $5,000, they could ultimately get on track for permanent residency, which could take between eight and 13 years. Heads of households would have to return to their home countries first.

Supporters say the reform plan would help illegal immigrants become legal, but it does nothing to help their families left behind in Mexico and other countries. It does nothing to reunite those families with their loved ones here in America, they say.

“To eliminate this as a component of immigration reform is simply unthinkable,” Burbidge said.

Msgr. Michael Clay, a spokesman for the diocese, said, “We would find that to be extremely difficult to accept because our society, our church, our world is based on the principal of family.”

Ron Woodard heads NC Listen, a group that says reform needs to be about stopping what it calls “out of control” immigration.

“What they wanted to do was get here without having to stand in line,” Woodard said.

There are 20 million people standing in line to come to America legally, Woodward said. He said there is no sympathy for them, asked why America should reward illegal immigrants who have broken the law by bringing their families into the country.

“We're not going to be able to take everybody. And people who want to come to our country have to understand that there are laws and that there is a line to stand in. And they have to stand in that line, and they shouldn't be able to circumvent that process, Woodard said.

“My highest priority would be for reforms that include family immigration,” Burbidge said at his news conference.

“To have a law that then legalizes the eternal separation of families for as long as people live seems to us to be unthinkable,” Clay said.

Senator Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., said she opposes the current bill unless it is revised, though she noted that the language in the bill was uncertain as late as late Friday night.

Last year, Dole voted against a Senate bill that included amnesty for illegal immigrants, and a statement from her office said she continues to oppose amnesty.

Dole’s office said she supports stricter border enforcement, effective work place verification of immigration or citizenship credentials, and a truly temporary worker program to fill jobs that American workers do not want in construction, agriculture and other sectors.

El Pueblo, a Hispanic advocacy group in the state, issued a statement it, too opposes the bill as written.

"El Pueblo does not support the current bill as it is written and calls on the U.S. Senate to make major revisions that will honor the intrinsic value of families, protect the rights of all workers, and eliminate the creation of a 'class-based' immigration system," the group said.


Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Believer May 22, 2007

    separation of church and state does not mean that the church cannot have an opinion. The Church cannot promote any specific candidate but they are able to have a point of view. The Catholic church views this as more than a policy, they believe there is a moral issue and that is what they are speaking about.

    As for people who think it is about money and membership, how much money do you really think the Catholic Church is receiving from these people and do you think they care about the country that their members live in?

  • nc lover May 22, 2007

    Yep there is.
    but nobody in state or church pays any attention to that anymore. All this statement is - is something written down on a piece of paper some where - Shame huh?

  • Gate Keeper May 22, 2007

    OOOPS...Isnt there such a thing as the seperation of church and state?

  • nc lover May 22, 2007

    @Jenbo -Thanks

  • Pirattitude May 22, 2007

    "Please understand that there is a problem with elected officials not listening to the people. There is a very vocal minority and they want things there way or the highway." ~Sonet-Transport

    My point exactly Sonet, the minority are the ones shouting saying either "boot them all out" or "keep them all here". Its the majority that simply is crying for reform, any sort of reform, and this bill fits that. They have crafted a bill that does not please any extremists, but may work out as a starting point toward actual reform.

  • Jenbo May 22, 2007

    No, NC Lover, you've got it exactly. As long as our elected government serves the interests of those who donate the most money, rather than the interests of ALL the citizens, it will continue. And this applies to BOTH parties. Why do we need guest workers? Because you can pay them less, give them no benefits, and deport them if they complain about unsafe working conditions. I suspect that it's just a matter of time before a true moderate emerges from a centrist third party (maybe an Independent) and garners huge support. I think a lot of citizens are disgusted with the extreme views of *both* parties. I know I am.

  • nc lover May 22, 2007

    Jenbo - I like you post. Good point! I hate to say this but it sure sounds like America is turning into suckers rather then keep the jobs here for our own. It all about money and greed isn't it? and not about the welfare of own nation. I could be wrong so please no bashing its just what I feel in my heart.

  • Jenbo May 22, 2007

    NC Lover "80% of my job is importing from Mexico and exporting to Mexico is about 20%"

    One of the biggest problems facing this country is we've gone from a net producer/exporter to a net consumer/importer and from a creditor nation to a debtor nation. The ratio of CEO pay to average worker has exploded by several orders of magnitude, and the middle class is disappearing. (Remember a generation ago when Wal-Mart prided itself on "Made in America"? Now it's all about the cheapest prices - part of that is low pay and no benefits for its employees and part of it is buying goods overseas for less than it would cost to make here. It's not just Wal-Mart -- US auto manufacturers either buy parts from overseas or make the cars there.)

  • nc lover May 22, 2007

    And another thing - I import/export to Mexco as well. My ratio between importing and exporting to Mexico - is 80% of my job is importing from Mexico and exporting to Mexico is about 20% Where's is this just? Nafta was a waste of time. This is an outrage that our Big Companies move their factory's down there and pay cents on the dollar (what Mexico would pay them) illegals need to go back but that is a big part of why they keep coming. And Our Big Compaines now in Mexico need to raise the pay so they can get jobs at home (not here).. That just my opinion on our illegal issue

  • Jenbo May 22, 2007

    DangSkippy " Point is, I go to another country and I am expected to know their language or pay the penalties for my own actions, I have to guess at the menu."

    Where are you going? In my experience, anyone abroad who wants US tourist dollars knows English, because they know most Americans can't be bothered to learn the languages of the countries they visit. So far I've traveled to France, Israel, Greece, Turkey, Italy, Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile (in addition to English-speaking England and Falkland Islands). With the exception of a few places off the beaten path in Istanbul, EVERYONE I encountered spoke English and they wouldn't let me practice my French, Hebrew, Spanish, Greek, or Italian.