At a press conference today, the panel called on congressional leaders to enact comprehensive immigration reform that addresses the root causes of migration and sets up an earned path to citizenship for undocumented workers.
The panel comprised Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles; Bishops Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino, Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, and Gerald Kicanas of Tucson; and Auxiliary Bishop Jaime Soto of Orange.
Cardinal Mahony, 70, described the current immigration system as "morally unacceptable because it accepts the labor and taxes of millions of workers without offering them the protection of the law."
"At the same time, we scapegoat these newcomers for our social ills and use them as rhetorical targets for political purposes," the cardinal added. "While the immigration debate to date has focused on the economic, legal, and social/cultural aspects of the issue, it is ultimately a humanitarian, and moral, issue."
Bishop Barnes, 60, the chairman of the episcopal Committee on Migration, said the prelates have a "long history of advocating for just and fair immigration laws," and have concluded that the current immigration system is "seriously flawed with respect to the treatment of immigrants and does not serve the common good of our nation."
Bishop DiMarzio, the chairman of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, highlighted several concerns the prelates have about recent congressional action on immigration that he hoped would be corrected in conference committee.
"For example, we understand the logic behind the three-tiered system included in the Senate bill, but believe it might be difficult to administer and that it unfairly leaves behind many who may be eligible," said Bishop DiMarzio.
The Brooklyn prelate, who turns 62 on Friday, added: "For those persons who have been here two years or less, we are fearful that the requirement to return home and come back through a temporary worker program is unrealistic in that many would not participate and would remain in the shadows."
U.S. bishops are meeting in Los Angeles through Saturday.