Franciscans Speak Out on Immigration

Russell Testa Features

WASHINGTON – Between 40,000 and 50,000 people gathered on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol on March 7 to demand comprehensive immigration reform and not the punitive anti-immigrant legislation going through now. Franciscans from several ministries were in full participation at this historic event.

From the Holy Name Province, there were parishioners from St. Camillus in Silver Spring, Md., and from St. Paul’s Parish in Wilmington, Del., as well asJoe Nangle and Russ Testa. There were also JPIC animators from the other OFM provinces in the U.S.

The bill that was passed in the House of Representatives, H.R. 4437 – The Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, is part of a larger trend in the United States to demonize immigrants. There are regular stories and efforts by those who oppose immigration that seek to paint immigrants in a bad light.

As Franciscans, particularly ones that minister with several immigrant communities, we must add our voice to the many, like Cardinal Mahony, in seeking justice in our system of immigration.

As you read this story, there are actions in the U.S. Senate that need our voice in response. The Senate Judiciary Committee is considering legislation that will bring harsh enforcement and anti-immigrant legislation to the Senate floor. We need to do what we can to stop this. Here is the suggestion for our action from the U.S. Bishops’ Campaign on Immigration. Please contact your senators as soon as possible and encourage others to do so as well.

Take Action Now

The Senate Judiciary Committee may attempt to complete immigration bill mark-up this week.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), is currently considering the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006. The committee has met twice to consider the bill, but has only made progress on Titles I and II on border and interior enforcement. The most controversial issues, such as the criminalization of the undocumented and those who assist them, the temporary worker program, and the fate of the undocumented population, could be taken up this week. The committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday and Thursday and may try to finish its work and report a bill by the end of the week.

It is crucial that you contact your senators this week to ask them to support comprehensive immigration reform, most particularly an earned legalization program for the 11 million undocumented in the country.

As background, Senator Frist has stated he will bring enforcement-only legislation (most likely Titles I, II, and III of the legislation) to the floor the week of March 27, if the committee does not report a bill to the floor. Such a move would diminish chances that comprehensive immigration legislation will be considered during the current Congress.

We urge you to contact the senators as soon as possible with a two-part message:

  1. Only a comprehensive immigration reform bill is acceptable, and the Senate Judiciary Committee should be given time to complete its work.
  2. Please support an amendment to the bill that would provide an earned legalization program for the 11 million undocumented in the country.

The members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are:

  • Alabama: Senator Jeff Session’s office at (202) 224-4124
  • Arizona: Senator Jon Kyl’s office at (202) 224-4521
  • California: Senator Feinstein’s office at: (202) 224-3841
  • Delaware: Senator Biden’s office at: (202) 224-5042
  • Illinois: Senator Durbin’s office at: (202) 224-2152
  • Iowa: Senator Grassley’s office at: (202) 224-3744
  • Kansas: Senator Brownback’s office at: (202) 224-6521
  • Massachusetts: Senator Kennedy’s office at: (202) 224-5251
  • New York: Senator Schumer’s office at: 202-224-6542
  • Ohio: Senator DeWine’s office at: (202) 224-2315
  • Oklahoma: Senator Coburn’s office at: (202) 224-5754
  • Pennsylvania: Senator Specter’s office at: (202) 224-4254
  • South Carolina: Senator Graham’s office at: (202) 224-5972
  • Texas: Senator Cornyn’s office at: (202) 224-2934
  • Utah: Senator Hatch’s office at: (202) 224-5251
  • Vermont: Senator Leahy’s office at: (202) 224-4242
  • Wisconsin: Senator Kohl’s office at: (202) 224-5653 and Senator Feingold’s office at: (202) 224-5323

Click on the links on the Web site below for a summary of the bill and talking points which highlight the major issues in case you have an opportunity for a longer conversation with staff. Again, the short message is that 1). The Senate Judiciary Committee should be given time to complete its work on a complicated immigration bill. Such a bill should not be rushed out of committee. Please support an amendment to the bill in committee and/or on the floor which would provide an earned legalization program for the 11 million undocumented in this country. (An earned legalization program would provide temporary work visas for currently undocumented. It would require them to pay a fine, begin learning English and work for six years before becoming eligible for a green card and permanent residency.)

This is an important week for the chances for comprehensive immigration reform. We need your voices!


In the longer term, the Province’s JPIC Office is putting together a working group to help us develop our strategy on how to get justice for immigrants. In addition, the JPIC Office will be contacting ministries to find stories of immigrants that can be shared more widely. There will be an attempt to demonize immigrants, we need to offer stories to retain their human dignity. There are also some national Franciscan efforts being developed around justice for immigrants. Stay tuned for more information in the future.

If you would like more information on Holy Name Province efforts or would like to help in furthering our strategy, please contact Russ Testa at (202) 541-5245 or