Helping immigrants "feel at home" in the United States is part of the Roman Catholic Church's mission, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan says.
Dolan, in an op-ed article published Thursday in The Wall Street Journal, said the church "has long been in the vanguard of this effort to integrate immigrants."
"As former Mayor Ed Koch told me, 'Two women welcomed the immigrants to New York: Lady Liberty and Mother Church'," Dolan wrote.
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"With help from the church and other institutions, our country has done a remarkable job of transforming immigrants from other shores into Americans, helping them become full members of our culture and communities."
Dolan said politicians must also help earnest immigrants achieve the American Dream.
Dolan noted the immigration bill adopted by the Senate would require participants to learn English and pass a naturalization exam to attain citizenship — though the 13-year length of the path is "perhaps too long."
"The church will keep pouring resources into helping immigrants demonstrate that commitment, something our leaders should keep in mind as they debate what will become of these Americans in the making," he vowed.
Dolan argued politicians and policy makers are wrong who believe immigrants who've settled in the United States don't want to become a part of the nation.
"The evidence suggests otherwise," he wrote, citing a 2007 report by a University of California, Berkeley, political scientist that found that Latino immigrants acquire English as quickly as, or more quickly than, Asian and European immigrants.
"By the third generation here, recent Pew studies have shown, Hispanics are achieving education and income levels comparable to the native-born population," he wrote. "In part, these results are thanks to the vibrant civic and religious institutions that welcome them."
Dolan argued that "comprehensive immigration reform" will continue that success.
"By bringing the undocumented out of the shadows and giving them a chance to earn citizenship, we'd remove barriers to their immersion," he said.
"This would allow them to participate in our society and develop talents and skills without inhibition, to the benefit of our culture. Without such changes, we'll remain a two-tiered society with a permanent underclass, a departure from the core democratic principles of our country."
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