Catholic Charities Immigration Services is coordinating the diocese's postcard campaign to let the state's representatives and senators know that Catholics support comprehensive immigration reform.
Maricella Garcia, director of the Little Rock office, said her staff is working with the U.S. bishops' Justice for Immigrants campaign to get the cards signed by parishioners around the state and sent in a mass mailing to Washington.
Fifty thousand sheets of postcards have been ordered for Arkansas. Each sheet includes three cards, two for Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor and one for the parishioner's representative.
In January the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said more than one million sheets of postcards have been ordered.
Garcia said the immigration postcards will not be distributed the same as previous pro-life campaigns. Instead of handing the cards out during Masses, CCIS employees and volunteers will man tables after Masses at various churches in February and March. Garcia said the staff wants to be available to talk to parishioners in person about their views and provide feedback if needed. Also they need to ensure that only U.S. citizens sign the cards.
"Permanent (legal) residents and others who shouldn't be in the voting process can't be used as the reason why we have so many cards (filled out)," she said.
But Catholics don't have to wait until the campaign comes to their parish. Electronic versions are now available at http://www.justiceforimmigrants.org. Through the Web site, supporters can confirm their zip code and the appropriate postcards will automatically be generated.
The text of the electronic and paper postcard says: "I am a concerned constituent and agree with the U.S. Catholic bishops that the U.S. immigration system is broken and is in need of repair. I ask that this year you support immigration reform legislation that keeps immigrant families together, adopts smart and humane enforcement policies and ensures that immigrants without legal status register with the government and begin a path toward citizenship. Our families and communities cannot wait!"
The campaign's theme is "We are one family under God."
Garcia said reform is needed because "it's the right thing to do."
"You have to do the right thing, even if it's hard," she said. "The right thing do it is that the 13 million undocumented people living in the United States and working here are able to come out of the shadows and be full participants in society. When they don't do that, crimes go unreported, people are victimized, employers are free to hire people at lower wages."
Garcia said immigration reform is a pro-life issue and should be supported like abortion-neutral health care reform bills and bans on abortion.
"It's about respecting life," she said.
Garcia said she is hopeful the federal government will allow undocumented workers to pay the necessary fines and application fees (likely to be around $2,000 a person) and seek a way to become citizens. Federal immigration agents then can focus on those here illegally who are committing felonies, deport them and make sure they don't return. Garcia said the government now spends its money and time on raiding businesses and arresting workers, which often can separate parents from their American-born children.
"We are focusing so much on workers ... They want to work and help their families," Garcia said. "They are not trying to hurt anybody. I am all for deporting criminals. ... We are tearing apart families. We are hurting people unnecessarily, and we are damaging the economy further."
"We need to stop targeting families and make it a fair process. That is what all undocumented people want. ... They are not looking for the easy way out. What they are looking for is a way to legalize their status."
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