The following is an unsigned editorial titled¬†¬†“Congress: It’s time to talk about immigration” from the Sept. 5 issue of the Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Providence, R.I.

Recess is over — time to get back to work. As Congress returns to Washington from break, remaining on their to-do list will be the debates on action aimed at our nation’s immigration policies. Now is the time to put partisan pride aside and look into the faces of our neighbors in need. In their faces we should see the face of Christ himself.

We must put myths to rest. Contrary to popular belief, men and women are not coming to the United States of America with the intent simply to take from U.S. citizens. They come to this country seeking work, protection, and a better way of life. Some come here fleeing oppression, poverty or violence. They come seeking the life and liberty that is also their unalienable right, given to them by our mutual Creator.

It’s not just about them. Immigration reform and appropriate legislative policies will be beneficial to the nation as well as the immigrant. By controlling our borders and enforcement of a registration policy we will enhance national security. History has shown that legalizing workers resulted in increased wages not just for themselves, but for all U.S. workers. The fair share of taxes paid by documented workers will aid in our economic recovery. Unification of families will strengthen our societal structure and lessen the burden of the government to provide aid to broken families.

We must recognize the family as an uppermost priority by not enacting legislation that separates or causes harm to those who have come here or those who wish to come here. Not just for economic reasons but for societal structure as a whole, values among the immigrating families can strengthen our communities. For those who meet the fair and balanced criteria, a path toward citizenship is a right action, keeping families intact and values strong.

Men and women of faith must speak out now. More than three out of four Catholic voters support efforts that would allow qualified, undocumented residents to earn citizenship by meeting prescribed requirements. Such requirements may include the paying of fines, learning to speak English, and payment of taxes. True Christian-based immigration reform must first uphold the dignity of the human person. Safeguards should be in place to ensure the nondiscriminatory and unprejudiced treatment for all workers, and just wages and fair treatment in the workplace.

Christians, indeed all good people, know that they are called to speak for those who have no voice: the unborn, the marginalized, the elderly, the prisoners, the infirm, the oppressed and even those who may speak a different language or look different in appearance. These people are no longer strangers in a new world. They are our neighbors and friends living and working beside us. Our children share classrooms and ball fields. We stand in line next to each other in grocery stores and shopping malls. We worship and pray together to a God who has shown us his ways. They are not problems to be solved — they are people who need to be helped. Now they need us to speak up for them.

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