by Sue Weishar, Ph.D.
The prospect for comprehensive immigration reform appears hopeful in 2013. When President Obama was asked by Meet the Press host David Gregory on December 30th what his second-term equivalent would be to his all-out effort to pass health care reform in his first term, the president responded, “Fixing our broken immigration system is a top priority. I will introduce legislation in the first year to get that done.”  According to Washington insiders, a group of six Senate leaders, three from each party , began work on an immigration bill shortly after the election. It is expected the “Gang of Six” will release a set of principles shortly after the inauguration and then introduce full legislative language in March or April. A vote is not expected until June at the earliest. 
To be decided in addressing the future of our nation’s estimated 11.1 million undocumented immigrants will be who is eligible to apply for legalization, whether legalization will lead to citizenship, how future employment verification systems will be designed, and whether or not U.S. guest worker programs will be overhauled, among several other important policy considerations. Various aspects of immigration reform will be a focus of JSRI publications in the coming year. This article will look at the principles and concerns that inform the U.S. Catholic Church’s response to immigration reform legislation.
2013 marks the 10th anniversary of the landmark pastoral letter by the Catholic Bishops of Mexico and the United States, Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope, which identifies the following five principles, based on Scriptures and Catholic Social Teaching, that guide the Church’s views on migration:
Based on the above principles, the U.S. Bishops have offered the following recommendations for immigration reform legislation: 
Although Strangers No Longer has been much discussed in the Catholic immigrant advocacy world since its release, I was surprised to learn recently that many committed Catholics are unaware of this beautiful document. This became apparent during the past year when JSRI teamed with Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans and local parishes to organize three “Catholic Dialogs on Immigration”. The purpose of the dialogs was to bring together Catholics with varying views on immigration to listen respectfully to each others’ perspectives and experiences and learn about the Church’s teachings on immigration.
A total of 122 Catholics, both native and foreign-born, from over 20 parishes participated in the dialogs. During the portion of the three-hour dialog sessions when the Church’s teachings on migration were presented and discussed, participants were provided, in addition to the five principles of migration found in Strangers No Longer, the U.S. Bishops’ recommendations for U.S. immigration policy reform.
In open-ended evaluations completed by dialog participants, to the question “What is the most important thing you learned or experienced this morning/evening?” the most common response had to do with the Church’s teachings or position on immigration. I recall one dialog participant, a former priest who has worked for many years on social justice issues, who was quite upset that he had not heard of the teachings before.
It has often been said that Catholic Social Teaching is the best kept secret of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Dialog experience tells me that when Catholics are exposed to the Catholic Social Teachings on immigration, its core message of respect for the dignity and sanctity of the human person and the need for people and their governments to work for the common good resonates across the spectrum of political opinion.
To keep the pressure on Congress to finally enact just and compassionate immigration reform, the Justice for Immigrants campaign of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has launched a postcard campaign targeting members of Congress. An easily accessible electronic postcard lists the key issues that the Bishops want to see in immigration reform legislation. It is important to send these postcards now, well before the mark-up of bills in March and April.
 The president also said that he would like to continue to improve the economy and expand energy production.
 The six senators are: Democrats Charles Schumer, NY; Dick Durbin, IL, and Robert Menendez, NJ; and Republicans John McCain, AZ; Lindsey Graham, SC; and Marco Rubio; FL.
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