California Bishops call for fair immigration
Bay Area faith groups, community organiztions, business and labor
leaders held a press conference in Yerba Buena Gardens Wednesday
calling for fair immigration reform
for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
Photos by John
December 6, 2007
California Catholic Bishops called for continued efforts towards
comprehensive and "fair" immigration reform Wednesday
to protect the rights of undocumented immigrant workers and their
families in the U.S.
Archbishop George Niederauer said at a press conference in San
Francisco that the current immigration system is, "outmoded
because it does not contain sufficient work visas for temporary
migrant workers to enter the country in a safe, legal, and orderly
Joined by Bay Area faith groups, community organizations, business
and labor leaders, Niederauer said the work immigrants perform
in industries such as agriculture, service, and construction,
are important to California and the nation.
"From our experience, the overwhelming majority of undocumented
immigrants in America are not criminals. They migrate in order
to find work to support themselves and their families," said
Niederauer. "We urge all Catholics and all Californians to
reject attacks on immigrants and to work constructively towards
a human resolution of this problem of illegal immigration."
Archbishop George Niederauer
San Francisco Immigrant Rights Commissioner Angus McCarthy said
immigrant advocacy groups had to evaluate what failed after the
Bush Administration's controversial Immigration Reform bill suffered
a landslide defeat in the Senate in June.
The bi-partisan bill, introduced by Senators John McCain (R-AZ)
and Edward Kennedy (D-MA), would have provided a pathway toward
citizenship to millions of undocumented workers currently living
in the U.S. The bill received various criticisms from both Republicans
and Democrats with many Republicans turning against Bush, accusing
the bill of giving amnesty to illegal aliens.
"This is one of the first moves [since then] by the Catholic
charities and the churches to come forward and speak out on the
issue," McCarthy said. But he called Bush's version of immigration
The bill would have included $4.4 billion to fund "enhanced"
border securities. That would have included building more detention
facilities to accommodate 31,500 detainees, increased fencing
and border patrols, and the installation of ground-based radar
and camera towers along the Southern border.
George Wesolek, Director of Archdiocese of San Francisco, said
that though he thought the bill was a compromise, he nevertheless
"It was moving in the right direction," he said.
"We supported a general idea of having some sort of a path
to citizenship which the bill provided," Wesolek added. "It
was a little punitive of people coming and then not being able
to have their families come and join them for as long as maybe
ten or fifteen years."
Globalization and free trade agreements such as NAFTA have also
played a key role in the patterns of migration and needed to be
recognized Wesolek said.
Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval said free trade agreements had serious
detrimental effects on rural communities in places such as Mexico,
including displacement and migration of workers into bigger cities.
Sandoval said local Mexican farmers could not compete with giant
U.S corporations that can grow and sell corn in Mexico at cheaper
rates than Mexican farmers. But many other businesses were causing
displacement as well.
Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval
"When you look at the growth of big chain stores like Wal-Mart
and Mexico, you have to understand that Wal-Mart is selling products
to customers that previously were buying local products,"
"With the loss of jobs, people either have to come work
at Wal-Mart or go to the big cities or to the United States. But
they no longer can stay in their small towns."
"My grandfather was a furniture maker and he made everything
out of wood and straw. I know that the type of product that he
made is less and less in demand because people now will buy a
plastic chair made in China and sold by Wal-Mart. That's a direct