Catholic bishops conference behind push for immigration reform

Published: Mar. 31, 2014 at 9:16 PM MST|Updated: Apr. 14, 2014 at 9:16 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - As congresscontinues to be unwilling to pass immigration reform, a powerful group israising awareness in the hope that public opinion will push lawmakers toaction.

That group fromthe U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is making its push in Southern Arizona,  visiting with theborder patrol and with people who have tried to cross the border illegally.

The bishops are in the area for a  three-day visit. They say they want to drawattention to what they call the human suffering caused by  broken immigration system.

The group hiked through the desert nearAmado, where undocumented immigrants are known to pass.

Bishop Gerald Kicanas of the Diocese ofTucson joined them, explaining the desert tour is very powerful.

He asked us to imagine men, women andchildren walking in total darkness through the dangerous desert, trying to finda better way of life.

Before the hike, the bishops were a in amore traditional setting.

It was mass at Mission San Xavier del Bac,south of Tucson, where they were welcomed by Bishop Kicanas.

He set the tone for the visit.

"That's thepurpose of our visit, to show our solidarity with our brothers and sisters."

The solemnity inside the church thencarried over to the desert, a place where thousands have lost their livestrying to illegally cross into the United States.

"You can imagine walking at night andwalking into these branches and many fall," explained Father Sean Carrollof the Kino Border Initiative

The visiting bishops are members of U.S. Conference of Bishops Migration and Refugee Committee.

For most of them, this tour was a first.

"I would bescared to death to do this because of the conditions of the place," saidBishop Luis Zarama of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. "You really need to bein a great need in your own country to leave everything, to come through all ofthis."

Bishop Kicanas says there's nothing goodabout illegal immigration.

He says it's time for congress to passcomprehensive immigration reform so people can come to the United Stateslegally to work.

"Then we couldput our border enforcement efforts at what really needs to be addressed --which is the criminal element along this border. The drug presence along thisborder is very worrisome," Kicanas said.

Bishop Kicanas says more border enforcementefforts could be aimed at human and weapons trafficking too.

The chairman of the committee says peopleleave their countries out of fear and out of poverty.

Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, the AuxiliaryBishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle, says that means illegal immigration isnot only a U.S. problem.

"It's abipartisan--a bi-country, I would say-- dialogue that we have to keep onraising this. The government in Mexico that has to examine all the causes, allthe root causes, of this migration to the United States," Bishop Elizondosaid.

After their hike, the bishops left for theU.S. Border Patrol Station at Nogales.

They also crossed the border to visit the Kino Border Initiative Aid Center for deported migrants and the Kino BorderInitiative's Nazareth House, both in Nogales, Sonora.

Nazareth House is ashelter for migrant women and children who have been deported from the United States.

First, the bishops prayed, requesting guidancefor themselves, for everyone.

As the bishops gathered in a circle,Bishop Kicanas offered a prayer in the desert.

"Loving andgracious God, may we never be indifferent to pain an suffering of our brothersand sisters."

TuesdayCardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston will come to southern Arizona, taking asimilar hike through the desert. Then he'll join the bishops at the border atNogales for a special mass.

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