Bishop R. Walker Nickless
Bishop R. Walker Nickless
August 26, 2013

Bishop R. Walker Nickless is considering how the Sioux City Diocese, its priests and parishes and other organizations, may participate in a broader Catholic Church push for an immigration-reform package that includes a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented residents.

"He plans on talking to some of his brother priests on how we plan to proceed," said Kristie Arlt, communications director for the diocese.

The bishop is on record as supporting "common-sense reform" that provides a "reasonable path" to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people in the United States without proper papers.

"It aligns with what he said in the past," Arlt said in an interview with The Daily Times Herald about the larger national Catholic effort on immigration legislation aimed at influencing members of Congress.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has consistently advocated for comprehensive reform of immigration policies that secures borders and gives undocumented immigrants the chance to earn permanent residency and eventual citizenship, the conference says in a statement of principles.

The question before Nickless is how actively to join other dioceses planning Masses and other possible events on Sunday, Sept. 8.

According to The New York Times, dioceses and archdioceses, including Chicago, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Brooklyn and San Antonio, are holding pro-pathway activities that Sunday. Some priests expect to deliver homilies supporting immigration reform.

The U.S. House of Representatives has 136 Catholics, about 30 percent of the total representation in that body. Catholics have more members of Congress than any other religious group, according to The Times.

Two Iowa Catholics - U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Steve King, a Republican - advocate dramatically different approaches to immigration policy.

Harkin supported a Senate bill that includes a path to citizenship. King refers to such a proposal as "amnesty" for law-breaking activity, and has built a national brand largely on his fierce opposition to any sort of immigration reform that includes a pathway for unauthorized residents.

Both King and Harkin carried Carroll County in their most recent re-election bids.