Welcome to all of you. We would like to talk with you today about an issue that is very important to the life of the Church and the nation—immigration reform.

But first I want to express my heartfelt condolences to the victims of the bombings in Boston and to the people of that great city. We pray for those who lost their lives and for those who were injured, for their families, and for all those affected by this senseless violence. Last week also saw a devastating explosion in West, Texas, and we pray for the people of West and for their loved ones as well. In the wake of these terrible events we are inspired by the extraordinary courage and generous hearts of the American people.

We witness this same generous spirit in America’s heritage as a nation of immigrants. The Catholic Church has long been committed to and involved in the issue of immigration, having welcomed successive waves of immigrants into our parishes, social service programs, hospitals, and schools. We have helped integrate newcomers into the social fabric of our nation for over two centuries. As the pastor of the archdiocese of perhaps the greatest immigrant city in the world, I know first-hand of the many efforts that have been made by the Catholic community on behalf of immigrants.

The Church brings this long history and rich experience to the task of immigration reform. The Catholic Church is present in all places along the migration trek: in sending communities, in transit, and in receiving communities. We see the injustices against migrants that take place under the current broken system, and our faith compels us to highlight the humanitarian and moral consequences. In the Gospel of Matthew Christ calls on us to “welcome the stranger”, a call that we answer today by standing with our migrant brothers and sisters.

Let me commend the Senators who have introduced bi-partisan legislation in the Senate. They are showing great leadership and courage in moving this issue forward, and the bishops will work with them and other members of Congress to achieve the most humane legislation possible.

Consistent with our principles, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will look to improve upon their efforts so that the maximum number of people are brought out of the shadows and are able to obtain citizenship in a reasonable amount of time; that families, based on the union of a husband and wife and their children, are able to reunite quickly and remain together; that poor and low-skilled workers can enter the country legally and safely to support their families; that due process protections are restored to our system, including alternatives to detention; that vulnerable populations such as refugees and migrant children receive protection; that the root economic and social causes of migration are addressed; and that the integrity of our borders is assured.

Let me just say that now is the time to address this issue. We can no longer wait to reform our broken system. As we speak, thousands of people are being deported and an untold number of families are being divided. Human beings continue to die in the American desert. This suffering must end.

I would like to have my brother bishops, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles and chairman of our Migration Committee, and Bishop John Wester, chairman of our Communications committee, give you more details about our position on the new bill and where Catholics stand on this issue.