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Catholics Back Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Will immigration reform legislation hit President Obama's desk this year? The Senate has already passed a bill. Eyes are now on the House. Meanwhile, Catholic leaders are pushing hard for comprehensive immigration reform.
Ed Cardenas does maintenance for two Catholic churches in Springfield. He was born in Mexico and came to America legally 26 years ago. It took him 22 years to become a legal U.S. citizen--a process he says was very long.
"We followed all the laws and steps and making two trips from here to Chicago a week," Cardenas said. "We became full citizens four months ago."
The Catholic Church is calling for a path to citizenship for undocumented people, a reform to reunite families faster, and a low-skilled worker program for migrant workers to enter and work in the US legally.
"People who are here, to look at their circumstances, if they have a background check, if they meet other eligibility standards, and they pay their fine, maybe there is a way to expedite they becoming legalized," Sister Mary Jean Traeger from St. Katharine Drexel Parish said.
The US Senate already passed an immigration reform bill with bipartisan support. There are parts in that bill Sister Mary Jean said the Church supports, but mainly because it's a comprehensive approach.
But Republican Congressman Rodney Davis said that bill doesn't stand a chance in his chamber.
"What we need to do is address our temporary ag workers visas," Davis said. "We need to address the shortage of people who can fill those math, science, and engineering jobs here in America. And we need to fix our broken visa system that is leading to the illegal immigration problem."
The Committee on Migration from the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops suggested bishops use homilies or bulletin inserts to highlight immigration reform. They recommended this Sunday as a good date. But, Bishop Thomas Paprocki from the Diocese of Springfield has not asked priests to participate.
For Ed Cardenas, the biggest issue surrounding those trying to become legal?
"I don't see why it has to be so complicated," Cardenas said.
Illegal immigrants account for more than 4 percent of the population in Illinois. That's more than 520,000, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. It's estimated the U.S. has more than 11 million.