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Catholic Charities urges immigration reform

Stressing the need for a path to citizenship for immigrants who have come to call the United States home but find the naturalization process inaccessible and prohibitive, the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Omaha urged in a letter to the editor published in the Omaha World-Herald that the U.S. House join the Senate in passing immigration reform.

"Our faith calls us to welcome the stranger and protect the vulnerable," wrote John Griffith and Jossy Rogers, immigration legal services program director at Catholic Charities, who co-signed the letter. "Now is a pivotal time in our country... We ask the faith community to prioritize this need and support this legislative effort to bring hope and help to our neighbors."

Printed Oct. 26 in the Public Pulse section of the newspaper, the letter cited the U.S. Senate's approval in June of a comprehensive immigration bill. This month, House members introduced a "promising bill that includes a path to citizenship," the letter said. "If we are to see meaningful change, the House must take action."

In a telephone interview with the Catholic Voice, Griffith said it is important that people who back immigration reform provide supportive comments to their legislators.

Catholic Charities serves the needy in the archdiocese through legal assistance to immigrants as well as addiction, mental health, domestic violence, pregnancy and adoption counseling services, food pantries, children's programs, affordable housing and microbusiness training.

The agency's legal assistance to immigrants helps about 350 families annually, and the work is one way to assist the many families that lie behind the debate over immigration, Rogers said.

While long lines of people who qualify to seek legal recognition in the United States are one challenge, rules that disqualify many immigrants from even seeking legal status - such as restrictions on allowing immigrants to convert temporary visas to permanent visas - leave many with little or no legal recourse, she said.

"Unfortunately, there are many families we can't help because they don't qualify - there is no line for people even to get into," Rogers said.

The letter by Griffith and Rogers is one in a series of efforts this year by officials in the archdiocese and dioceses across the country to urge immigration reform.

For example, in a Sept. 6 column in the Catholic Voice, Archbishop George J. Lucas urged Catholics to contact members of the House, asking them to support common sense, humane immigration reform. And as Congress returned to work Sept. 9 after a recess, the Nebraska Catholic Conference, which represents the interests of the state's three bishops - Archbishop Lucas, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln and William J. Dendinger of Grand Island - emailed a bulletin insert to all Nebraska parishes urging Catholics to take similar action.

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