Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley and other Catholic leaders are urging Congress to pass permanent immigration reform, calling sweeping executive orders announced earlier this week by President Obama a good first step.
“Obviously the president’s solution is not a long-term solution, but it’s much-needed relief,” O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, said yesterday as he was handing out Thanksgiving turkeys at the Catholic Charities Yawkey Center in Dorchester. “We need to come up with a permanent and just solution, and the president has begun (the process). We hope that Congress will get on board.”
O’Malley said he and other Catholic bishops will lobby Congress.
“It was decided that our president Archbishop (Joseph Edward) Kurtz will approach the White House and the leadership in the Senate and the House to try and urge them to come up with a more permanent solution,” O’Malley said, adding that the church will work to help undocumented immigrants who are affected by Obama’s executive order.
“We will help to have outreach meetings to inform the community, we’ve already started a multilingual telephone line so people can call in, and we will eventually be giving legal help to fill out applications so that families will be able to take advantage of this,” he said. “It’s easier for the church to do that because people trust that we’re not working for the immigration department.”
Obama’s executive order will stop the deportation of an estimated 5 million illegal immigrants.
Still, immigration advocates say the number affected by the executive order likely will be significantly less.
“This will help 50 to 75 percent of the people they’re saying it will help,” said Marisa DeFranco, an immigration lawyer.
Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said many illegal immigrants will balk at the chance to sign up for a temporary solution.
“It’s the fear of being deported at a later time,” she said. “(It’s) the fear of coming forward and being in the system.”
DeFranco said she expects many illegal immigrants will be deterred by the costs and a general distrust of the immigration system.
“It will be significantly less than 5 million,” she said. “Because of the red tape, the financial qualification, the disbelief that this will really help them.”