Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Bishops promote immigration reform

Members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’(USCCB) Committee on Migration will travel to Capitol Hill, May 29, to urge lawmakers in the House of Representatives to act on immigration reform legislation.

According to an article from Catholic News Service, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration said, “The only real solution to this broken system is action by Congress. We need a debate and vote on this issue. Inaction is equivalent to supporting the status quo, which Americans agree needs to be changed.”

Earlier this year, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles wrote an article entitled “What can we do now on immigration reform?” in which he wrote:
Since 2008, our government has deported nearly 2 million people and nearly a half million more are locked up in immigration detention centers.

And as I’ve been repeating, these are not just numbers, these are real people. One in every four persons who is being arrested or deported is being ripped out of their homes — taken away from their children, their wives and husbands, all their relatives.

We need to keep reminding our leaders — and our neighbors — about these basic “human facts.” Most of the 11 million undocumented in our country have been living here for five years or more. Two-thirds have been here for at least a decade.

The vast majority pose no criminal danger to our community. Just the opposite. They are going to church and working alongside us, paying taxes, making our country and our communities stronger.
. . .
Any true reform must provide a generous path to citizenship for our 11 million undocumented brothers and sisters. A just and compassionate society can’t allow an underclass of people to keep growing at the margins of our society, living in constant fear of arrest, without rights or reasons to hope.

So let’s keep praying for our country and for our leaders.

And let us ask Mary, our Blessed Mother, to give us the courage to always do what is right and just.
To learn more about the issues of immigration and what you can do, visit the Justice for Immigrants website of the USCCB.

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Smarter Sentencing

Last week, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote an opinion piece for the Miami Herald on the Smarter Sentencing Act (S. 1410), a bill described as “a modest first step in reforming our nation’s broken sentencing policies.” He wrote, in part:
Catholics and other Christians around the world take comfort knowing that the “Lord never tires of forgiving us, never!” as Pope Francis has said. But beyond our personal failings, we also know that there is brokenness in society. This brokenness is perhaps no more evident than in our nation’s tragic rate of incarceration.

The United States imprisons more people per capita than any other nation in the world at a cost of approximately $80 billion annually. In 2011, approximately 7 million people were under some form of correctional control with 2.2 million incarcerated in federal, state or local prisons.
. . .
Several factors have contributed to these shocking statistics. Mandatory minimum sentencing, increased criminalization of nonviolent offenses and tough-on-crime policies that introduce youth offenders to the prison system at younger and younger ages all play a role in the increasing number of incarcerations. The growth in recent years of the for-profit private prison industry has also, some argue, created a perverse incentive that favors incarceration instead of other alternatives.

Rigid sentences are not only costly but often prove detrimental to the good of families and communities. Prolonged incarceration contributes to higher rates of recidivism, family instability and poverty. Punishment in order to promote human life and dignity should promote the rehabilitation of the wrongdoer and his restoration as a productive member of society.

People from diverse political and religious perspectives are beginning to question our nation’s harsh sentencing practices. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, have introduced The Smarter Sentencing Act (S. 1410), which seeks to implement modest reforms of mandatory minimum sentences by expanding judicial sentencing options specifically for nonviolent drug offenses.

The bill would permit reductions in mandatory sentences for certain drug crimes and allow crack cocaine offenders to seek lighter sentences under the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act.
You can read more here.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Time to help

Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) has sent out the following appeal in light of the recent spat of tornadoes across America:
117 tornadoes have hit the United States since April and destroyed 1,700 buildings and homes, damaged an additional 2,700 structures and caused 37 fatalities. CCUSA staff have been supporting local Catholic Charities agencies active on the ground to help those whose lives have been destroyed, but we need more money and resources to be able to complete our work. 
We are coming to you today to see if you can give $10, $25 or $50 more to make sure we can help those who have been hit by the tornadoes that have destroyed lives across America. 
Although these numbers are grim, there is always hope. Catholic Charities USA’s disaster operations team is responding to the tornadoes and floods in Arkansas and Florida while Catholic Charities local agencies provide families and individuals with basic needs such as food, shelter, housing assistance, household goods as well as financial assistance and home repairs. 
Please give today to help disaster victims with long-term relief and recovery. A gift of just $10, $25 or $50 can go a long way.
To donate, go here.