Congress is using illegal immigrants as scapegoats for the nation's social and economic ills, the nation's Roman Catholic bishops said Friday.
Both the Senate and House are considering wide-ranging legislation that would restrict immigration.The House earlier last week approved an amendment to a bill passed by the Senate that would allow states to deny public education to illegal immigrants' children.
"There is a disregard for human life in this legislation, which is inconsistent with the gospel and which I find morally objectionable," said Bishop Anthony Pilla, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is holding its annual spring meeting in Portland.
The bishops also voted 179-20 to reverse a policy that forced families to leave the ashes of cremated loved ones outside the church during a funeral Mass. Cremated remains will be allowed inside the sanctuary of Roman Catholic churches during the funeral Mass if the Vatican approves the change.
The House immigration amendment was sponsored by Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., and got support earlier this week from Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole.
President Clinton has vowed to veto the bill if the amendment is not withdrawn.
Bishop John Cummins, who chairs the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, said recent developments gave the group no choice but to address the immigration issue.
"I think the idea is, if kids are mistreated, families won't come or they'll go back to where they came from," Cummins said. "That's a heavy penalty to lay on kids."