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February 14, 2006


As part of a nationwide week of action, interfaith leaders in our region will call upon Congress to reject an enforcement-only approach to immigration reform and enact comprehensive legislation that provides a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Speakers include: Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia; Rabbi Alan Iser, Board of Rabbis; Bishop Roy Almquist, Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Sheikh Mohammed Shehata, Al-Aqsa Islamic Society; Bishop Charles Bennison, Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. Religious leaders in Pittsburgh will be holding a companion press conference.

On December 16, 2005, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an immigration bill that focused only on enforcement. Among its provisions, H.R. 4437 makes all undocumented immigrants aggravated felons; removes due process protection to asylum-seekers and refugees; mandates the detention of families and other vulnerable groups along our border; and subjects religious workers and social service providers to five years in prison simply for providing basic-needs assistance, such as food and water, to an undocumented immigrant. In March, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Arlen Specter, will consider comprehensive immigration reform. This is an historic opportunity to fix our broken immigration system.

"Together, we can create an immigration system that reflects our national values, promotes our national security and is worthy of our great nation, a nation of immigrants," said Cardinal Justin Rigali in a previously released statement. "I urge Senator Specter and the U.S. Senate to reject H.R. 4437 and adopt a more comprehensive and humane approach to immigration reform." He continued, "I also urge Catholics and others of good will to support this approach."

Dozens of interfaith leaders, congregations, and faith-based service providers have already signed the Pennsylvania Interfaith Statement in Support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, which calls for:
* An opportunity for hard-working immigrants who are already contributing to this country to come out of the shadows, regularize their status upon satisfaction of reasonable criteria and, over time, pursue an option to become lawful permanent residents and eventually United States citizens;
* Reforms in our family-based immigration system to significantly reduce waiting times for separated families who currently wait many years to be reunited;
* The creation of legal avenues for workers and their families who wish to migrate to the U.S. to enter our country and work in a safe, legal and orderly manner with their rights fully protected; and
* Border protection policies that are consistent with humanitarian values and with the need to treat all individuals with respect, while allowing the authorities to carry out the critical task of identifying and preventing entry of terrorists and dangerous criminals, as well as pursuing the legitimate task of implementing American immigration policy.

This interfaith effort was coordinated by the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition (PICC). Executive Director Regan Cooper said, "Leaders and laypeople of all faiths are coming together to call for comprehensive reform that offers real solutions. Immigrants come here to work hard and make a better life for their children, pursuing the American Dream just as our forefathers did. We will all benefit if they are given the chance to come out of the shadows and earn a path to citizenship." To sign the statement, contact PICC at 215-832-0626 or email

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Matthew Gambino
Associate Director

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