WASHINGTON (CNS) — Nearly 100 current and former heads of Catholic colleges and universities are appealing directly to Catholic members of the House of Representatives to “draw wisdom and moral courage from our shared faith tradition” in supporting comprehensive immigration reform.

The letter announced in a July 18 teleconference was to be sent to every Catholic member of the House, which includes Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.


“Our broken immigration system, which tears parents from children, traps aspiring Americans in the shadows and undermines the best values of this nation, is morally indefensible,” the letter said.

“Catholic teaching values the human dignity and worth of all immigrants, regardless of legal status,” it continued. “We remind you that no human being made in the image of God is illegal. The Vatican’s Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church warns against the exploitation of immigrant workers and says ‘immigrants are to be received as persons and helped, together with their families, to become a part of societal life.’ We are part of an immigrant church in an immigrant nation.”

Signers of the letter included the presidents of major schools including the University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University, The Catholic University of America, Boston College, the College of the Holy Cross, Gonzaga University, Creighton University, the three Loyola universities in Los Angeles, Chicago and New Orleans, St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, St. Thomas University in Florida and the one in Houston, the University of Dayton and Villanova University.

Among the signers were also the heads of the Conference for Mercy Higher Education, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, and the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities.

Speaking during the teleconference, Mary Lyons, president of the University of San Diego, observed that her institution is just 15 miles from the Mexican border, the only U.S. Catholic school within that short a distance. Any immigration reform, or the failure to pass it, will have an effect on the university’s students and their families.

Jesuit Father Tom Greene, secretary for social and international ministries at the Jesuit Conference, said the current House approach to immigration reform, of piecemeal legislation that first focuses on enforcement is unjustifiable.

Father Greene said that after Hurricane Katrina wiped out much of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, nobody suggested that legislation to enable rebuilding be handled piecemeal. That’s no way to deal with the plight of 11 million people and their families, he said.