Immigration reform needed

The Senate went on recess this week without living up to the expectations they themselves raised when, just a few days earlier, they announced a bipartisan agreement on an immigration reform bill.

At the crucial Senate vote April 7, only 38 senators — all Democrats — lined up in support of the measure: 22 short of the required 60.

Internal partisan divisions in both parties apparently caused the last minute fallout. Sensitive issues such as immigration seem to be particularly difficult to tackle in election years.

In an encouraging sign, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., has said he expects that some agreement will be forged after the two- week recess.

We certainly hope that will occur.

The Senate bill addressed many of the concerns over immigration that have been expressed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The bill would establish a temporary worker program, reorganize legal immigration procedures to reduce the backlog of applications for family reunification visas and give 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants the chance to legalize their status.

The Senate bill stood in stark contrast to a version passed by the House last December. H.R. 4437 contained provisions that would criminalize unlawful presence in the country — currently a violation of civil law — as well as leave churches and other humanitarian organizations that provide social, medical and other types of services to undocumented immigrants open to prosecution.

Those provisions are disgraceful and uncharacteristic of a nation built by the hard work of immigrants.

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley addressed an April 10 immigration rally at Copley Square stressing that fact. “This country is great because it is a country of immigrants who come here from all over the world bringing their talents, their energies,” he said. “And for that reason God has blessed this country.”

A comprehensive immigration reform legislation is greatly needed and it should not be delayed.

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