Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration, today applauded approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.
"This is an important step in the legislative process," he said May 22, the day after the committee vote. "I applaud Chairman Patrick Leahy and the committee members for their efforts and strong bipartisan cooperation."
The Senate panel considered over 150 amendments during the process.
Archbishop Gomez said that the bill should be taken up by the full Senate as soon as possible, and that amendments to improve upon the legislation should be adopted. In his remarks, he specifically mentioned the need for improvements to the path to citizenship and the family immigration provisions in the legislation.
"The path to citizenship should be widened, so that the maximum number of persons can access it and come out of the shadows," he said. "To leave a large population behind would defeat the purpose of the bill, which is to bring persons into the light so they can become full members of our communities."
The USCCB has been working to shorten the amount of time an individual must wait to apply for permanent residency, to move forward the cut-off date for eligibility, and to ease income and work requirements.
Archbishop Gomez also expressed concern over cuts to the family-based immigration system, a hallmark of the nation's immigration laws for decades.
"We must not abandon our focus on families, which are the backbone of our society," he said. "Family unity, based on the union of a husband and a wife and their children, must remain the cornerstone of our nation's immigration system."
Archbishop Gomez welcomed several amendments added to the legislation helping immigrant children. He also commended the Senators for turning back efforts to strike provisions assisting asylum-seekers and refugees.
It is expected that the full U.S. Senate will consider the legislation in June.