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Bishop Burbidge Says the Time for Immigration Reform is Now

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Bishop Michael F. Burbidge has called on the United States Senate to begin the process that will lead "to passage of a fair and comprehensive immigration reform bill."

At a news conference held at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Raleigh, the Bishop said "The time for our congressional leaders to act is now." He noted that the Catholic Bishops of the United States, concerned about the plight of immigrants in this country, have taken a course of action that they hope will lead to major reform this year.

The nation's bishops, through their Justice for Immigrants program, are encouraging Catholics to become involved in the debate and make their voice heard in the public arena.

This past weekend, the 92 parishes in the Diocese of Raleigh have distributed the first of three information documents that describe the Church's position on the immigration question, which centers on the dignity of each individual.

Bishop Burbidge cited the "Five Principals" that would constitute a fair and just immigration program; principals that are based on Scripture and Tradition. The five are: People have a human right to work and support their families in dignity in their homeland; when that is not possible due to economic hardships, they have a right to migrate to other countries to work and support their families; countries have a right to protect their borders, but also have a higher obligation to provide legal avenues for people to enter countries legally; provide refuge from political oppression and finally, all persons, including undocumented workers, have a right to basic human dignity.

In his remarks, Fr. Patrick Keane, Diocesan Vicar for Hispanics, pointed out factors why people are forced to leave their homeland, often at great peril to their life. He explained the economic hardships faced by people in countries such as Mexico and El Salvador, where, as a missionary in the 1990s, he saw first-hand the plight of the people struggling to survive day-to-day.

John Herrera, Alderman in Carrboro, North Carolina and the state's representative on the National League of Cities Immigration Task Force, addressed the economic benefits the migrant work force is having in both the state and nation.

In his closing remarks, Bishop Burbidge acknowledged the many emotions ignited by the immigration debate, but he called on "all people of goodwill to continue to debate in the spirit of mutual respect, ever mindful that together we must work for peace and protect the dignity of each and every person."

Above: Bishop Burbidge speaking at news conference on immigration issue at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

Above: Sr. Joan Jurski, Coordinator of the Diocesan Office for Peace and Justice, answering question during news conference, joining Bishop Burbidge, John Herrera, Msgr. Michael Clay and Fr. Patrick Keane.

Above: Ben Nguyen and Peter Le, members of the Vietnamese Catholic Community in the Diocese of Raleigh. Representatives from several ethnic communities, including African, Korean, Filipino and Latino attended the news conference in support of a comprehensive immigration reform bill.