Legislative highlights: Justice for Immigrants

National Migration Week, which has been observed for more than a quarter of a century, carries renewed importance this year. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and Archbishop José H. Gomez, president and vice president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, offered these thoughts in their message:

“Migration is, more than anything, an act of great hope. Our brothers and sisters who are forced to migrate suffer devastating family separation and most often face dire economic conditions to the point they cannot maintain a very basic level of living. Refugees flee their countries due to war and persecution which inspires them to risk everything for an opportunity to live in peace. As Catholics in the United States, most of us can find stories in our own families of parents, grandparents or great-grandparents leaving the old country for the promise of America. Take time this Migration Week to seek out those stories. Let us remind ourselves of those moments when our loved ones were forced to seek the mercy of others in a new land.”

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops holds justice for immigrants as one of their key priorities for the 85th Texas Legislature. Our special concern for the immigrants is rooted in Scripture and Church tradition. The TCCB supports immigration reform that is merciful, charitable, and compassionate to those here simply working for a better life, while also recognizing the legitimate responsibility of the federal government to maintain control of our nation’s borders.

The bishops will prioritize the following:

  • Support comprehensive immigration reform including a pathway to citizenship.
  • Oppose efforts to compel local and state agencies to enforce federal immigration laws.
  • Oppose efforts to reduce access to education and healthcare for immigrants.
  • Oppose efforts that hinder immigrants’ ability to get Texas drivers’ licenses and IDs or birth certificates for immigrants’ citizen children.
  • Support care for unaccompanied minors and reunite families separated by migration.
  • Support alternatives to family detention of migrants and refugees.
  • Support continued state and federal cooperation with refugee resettlement.

There are several proposed bills that are intended to thwart “sanctuary cities,” by holding local entities accountable in enforcing complex federal law. The TCCB opposes these bills, including SB4, which is a priority of the lieutenant governor. The TCCB is supporting other bills which are intended to improve law enforcement training for those working on the border (SB 168) and to study the costs associated with providing humanitarian relief to refugee children (HB 278).