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TALKING POINTS ON IMMIGRATION Background.

With the change in leadership in the House of Representatives in the new Congress, it is highly unlikely that passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill is possible in the next two years. In fact, the USCCB will most likely be playing defense, as several harsh immigration enforcement bills will be advanced in the House. During the 111th Congress, the USCCB supported the Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which fell five votes short of passage. The legislation would have provided a path to citizenship for young people who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents as children or infants. Talking Points: The USCCB has long supported comprehensive immigration reform in the United States. This would include a legalization program for the 11.2 million undocumented in the country; reforms to the family immigration system so families could be reunited more expeditiously; and a worker program which would permit low-skilled workers to enter the country with a visa in a safe and orderly manner. We also advocate that the U.S. government seek solutions for the root causes of migration: economic disparities in sending countries which force migrants to come; trade agreements which impact the poor; and other economic agreements which may unintentionally drive migration. The USCCB also has spoken out forcefully about enforcement measures implemented by the U.S. government, including the concentration of resources along the U.S.-Mexico border. We have expressed concern about the increasing number of migrant deaths in the American desert. We also have advocated for alternatives to the detention of immigrants who are incarcerated in the U.S. prison system. The political debate on immigration in the United States has become polarized, but polls indicate that the majority of Catholics support the position of the U.S. bishops on immigration. A 2008 poll conducted by the USCCB showed that 69 percent of Catholics supported a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, provided they register with the government. There remains a vocal minority of Catholics and others who are vociferously opposed to any type of legalization. There also remains a moderate group in the middle who support both enforcement and a legalization program. During 2011 and 2012, it is unlikely that Congress will be able to come together to pass a comprehensive immigration bill that includes a legalization program. The recent elections, as well as the weak economy, will create more impetus for enforcement measures over a legalization program. This does not mean that a compromise between pro-legalization and pro-enforcement sides is impossible, but any compromise could be so enforcement-heavy that the USCCB might not be able to support it.