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Morality of immigration reform addressed at labor conference

Bishop laments 'patchwork of contradictory and confusing law'


Capital Press

YAKIMA, Wash. -- America cannot take the toil and taxes of "undocumented brothers and sisters" without offering them protection of the law, the Roman Catholic bishop of Yakima told attendees of a labor conference.

"We cannot scapegoat them, separate their families and subject them to exploitation at the same time they pick and cook our food, take care of our children, clean our homes and care for our elderly. As a moral matter, our nation cannot have it both ways," Bishop Joe Tyson said in his keynote speech at the Washington Farm Labor Association's annual Labor Conference at the Yakima Convention Center.

Opening and closing his remarks by quoting Ephesians 2:19 about being members of the household of God, Tyson noted God made humans in his likeness and therefore all humans deserve dignity and respect. There is the common good that is human law that has the character of law to the extent it derives from eternal law, the bishop said.

While nations have the right to control and protect their borders, current U.S. immigration law is a "patchwork of contradictory and confusing law" that treats migrants, employers and many elements "unjustly" with "inconsistent enforcement," he said.

The problem, he said, is that employers have to use subjective judgment with worker employment eligibility I-9 forms without any legal verification.

"Then the government makes a subjective judgment about the selective judgment made by the employer," Tyson said.

Employers can get in trouble for being discriminatory and government can decide to do an audit based on complaints from competitors, making for an uneven business environment, he said.

America risks losing its respect for truth because of the increasing disconnect between human law and right reason, he said.

"Are we telling the truth? Are we telling the truth to our customers about what it takes to put food on the tables of this country? Are we telling the truth to the wider public about what it takes to make our churches and parishes, our schools and our institutions to really flourish?" he asked.

The path forward, he said, starts with five principles on immigration enunciated by U.S. and Mexican Catholic bishops in 2003:

* People have a right to find economic opportunity in their homeland.

* People have a right to migrate to support themselves and their families.

* Sovereign nations have a right to control and protect their borders.

* Refugees and asylum seekers should be afforded protection.

* Undocumented migrants should have their human dignity respected and their human rights upheld.

The Catholic church in Central Washington is home to "thousands and thousands of people who lack legal status," he said.

The church is often their only support of faith and "place where they do not live in the shadows," Tyson said.

The Diocese of Yakima is partnering with Heritage University to hold community talks to support "a just and comprehensive immigration reform," he said.


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