President Obama in his latest political move has given a minor victory to those fighting for extensive immigration reform of a seriously “broken system.” With his new executive order the president has merely deferred deportation for many families and their children and has given these immigrants working papers for three years. But he has not solved the more glaring, serious problems that 12 million immigrants face living in this country.
His order does not address the more serious problems of legal residence or citizenship in the United States. His “Band-aid” solution only affects about 4 million immigrants out of the 12 million living in the shadows in the United States of America. For example, those families who have children who were carried across the border, the “Dreamers,” are not affected by this order unless their parents had other children born in the United States after their arrival.
This small victory is perhaps a move toward complete immigration overhaul, but it does not address the more serious ramifications of divided families and lives of immigrants in the United States. In fact, the executive order may be rescinded when the newly elected congressional officials take their seats next year and when a new president is elected in 2016.
Although I welcome the administration bringing some relief to the immigrants, I must echo the pronouncement of Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, who strongly urged the president and Congress to “work together to enact permanent reforms of the nation’s immigration system for the best interests of the nation and the migrants who seek refuge here.”
Louisville Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the USCCB, commented on the executive order of the president and explained how “there is an urgent pastoral need for a more humane view of immigrants.”
Interestingly enough, Pope Francis in these days has expressed how “when encountering migrants, it is important to adopt an integrated perspective, capable of valuing their potential rather than seeing them only as a problem to be confronted and resolved, but are our brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved.”
In an address to participants at a Conference for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, the Holy Father remarked, “Today, notwithstanding new developments and the emergence of situations which are at times painful and even tragic, migration is still an aspiration to hope.”
A more overall, just and fair immigration policy for all — both immigrants and American citizens — is hoped for and needed.
Father Gus Puleo is pastor of St. Patrick Parish, Norristown.