As national lawmakers debate an immigration bill pending in the senate, the Archdiocese of San Francisco has launched a campaign to engage families around the Bay Area to demand meaningful reform.
San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone stood with Father Arturo Albano, Father Paul Gawlowski and other Roman Catholic leaders on the steps of the city’s historic Mission Dolores on Monday to call for urgent comprehensive immigration reform to help thousands of undocumented families from Marin County in the north to San Mateo County south of the city.
“We have a historic opportunity to fix the immigration system,” Cordileone said. “Our country has a right and a responsibility to protect its borders, and effective immigration laws are part of that enforcement.”
Among specific demands for national immigration reform, Cordileone called for: a path to full legal status; provisions for minors to gain legal status, enhanced education and employment; reduction of immigration application backlogs to curb family separations; improved due process protections for immigrants; and “a way of addressing the root causes of immigration.”
“This is important to us as Catholics,” said Lorena Melgarejo of the Office of Public Policy and Social Concern within the Archdiocese.
Along with calling for a national bill, the archbishop also urged California Governor Jerry Brown and state legislators to pass a Trust Act in 2013 that would put the responsibility of immigration detention and enforcement exclusively in the jurisdiction of federal agencies, rather than local law enforcement.
The bill now pending in Washington would create a 13-year path to citizenship for persons who are currently undocumented while also strengthening border security. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy recently proposed an amendment to the pending bill that would allow Americans to sponsor same-sex partners who were born outside the country and in need of green cards.
The inclusion of issues related to same-sex partnership has drawn fire from conservative politicians as well as the San Francisco archbishop, who publicly denounces same-sex marriage.
“It’s an unrelated issue,” he said of same-sex partnerships. “Let’s just focus on immigration reform in this bill.” If the bill failed because of a controversial same-sex partnership amendment, he added, “it would be a tragedy.”
Alongside the archbishop, two undocumented San Franciscans spoke about personal hardships they said were results of a broken immigration system. A woman who for her own protection introduced herself only as Nellie, said she had reported being physically abused by her boyfriend, only to be arrested and detained for eight months after law enforcement officials discovered her undocumented status.
Carolina Parrales of the Archdiocese Office of Public Policy and Social Concern, and members of La Colectiva, a worker-run collective that aims to empower immigrant women, joined clerics on the steps of the Mission Dolores Basilica Monday to lend their support to the reform campaign. Melgarejo, the archdiocese public policy official declined to provide last names to protect the undocumented persons in attendance from further repercussions.