GREEN BAY - Green Bay Diocese leaders are calling today 'Immigration Sunday.' The declaration is part of a concerted effort by the Catholic Church to bring about immigration reform.
"It is important to end the political, social and economic conditions that drive people from their homelands and families,” said Rev. Rod Fenzl, who then translated the same sentence into Spanish.
The Sunday 10:45 mass at St. Willebrord Catholic Church is bilingual – one of four the church offers on weekends. Home to about 1,400 families – or about 4,500 people, St. Willebrord leaders say about 40-percent of the parish is likely undocumented.
"When one part of that community is suffering injustice – the whole community is suffering," explained Rev. Andrew Cribben.
Cribben says families in the area have been torn apart due to the lack of immigration reform and this issue is not a matter for political infighting – but rather what's right.
"One of the things the bishops are calling for is the restoration of due process in this immigration reform. So that the people who are caught up in the system can find resolutions and remedies and not just sit, and wait for years, for a remedy," said Cribben.
In June, the Democratically-controlled U.S. Senate passed S.744, legislation known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The legislation would increase border security, broaden entry programs for both high and low-skilled workers and establish a path to citizenship for the roughly 11 million people living in the US illegally.
The bill received bipartisan support from 14 Republicans and 52 Democrats. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, voted in favor of it; her Republican counterpart Ron Johnson voted against it.
The House could take up the bill soon. Calls to Wisconsin Congressman Reid Ribble went unreturned. Congressman Tom Petri was unavailable.
"I'm legal now,” explained Gabriela Gamboa. “But (having) been in that position before, being an illegal, you are afraid about everything."
Gamboa is president of the Hispanic Community Council of Northeast Wisconsin. Gamboa says she supports the stance of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay. She says many people who live in our communities today, wish to be a contributing part. But says current laws don't make it easy to rectify an illegal status.
"You want to do everything right,” said Gamboa of when a person is in a country illegally. “You want to keep helping the community. And it's just hard for you to be involved with the community, no matter if you have the knowledge, if you are a good person and you can do it."
Asked if lawmakers can "do it" when it comes to getting something done, Cribben says he's optimistic - as he is a man of faith. But says there will be a lot of prayer involved.
The last time comprehensive immigration reform legislation came up for a vote was in 2006. It too passed the Senate with bi-partisan support, but later died in the House.
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