Local News

Head of Raleigh Diocese Discusses Immigration Reform

Posted May 21, 2007 9:54 a.m. EDT
Updated May 22, 2007 8:10 a.m. EDT

— The head of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh spoke Monday about legislation before Congress calling for immigration reform.

Bishop Michael Burbidge discussed five major principles that would form the basis of a sound immigration policy.

The bipartisan bill, that will be debated in the Senate starting Monday, 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 workplace enforcement and provide for a guest worker program.

The bill would also 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.

Kennedy, the lead Democratic negotiator with Republicans and the White House, acknowledged widespread criticism but called it "our last-gasp stand."

Conservatives say it is too lenient on those who have broken the law; liberals warn it would be unworkable and unfair to migrant families. Critics have labeled the plan an "amnesty" program.

"That's sort of a slogan and a cliche you're going to hear a lot about," Kennedy said Friday. He said fixing the nation's "broken borders" is long overdue.