The Roman Catholic bishop of Tucson, Arizona, Gerald Kicanas, warned lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to change their tone when discussing immigration or risk losing the support of millions of Catholic faithful.

“I must say up front that the U.S. bishops continue to be concerned with the tone on Capitol Hill toward immigrants,” Kicanas said.

The bishop was in Washington last week to testify on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) before the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Enforcement.

“We do not agree with terms that characterize immigrants as less than human, since no person is ‘illegal’ in the eyes of God,” he added. “Such harsh rhetoric has been encouraged by talk radio and cable TV, for sure, but also has been used by public officials, including members of Congress.”

Kicanas was there specifically to speak about three enforcement-only immigration bills currently in the House, including bills that would repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which gives temporary deportation relief to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children, and the Secure and Fortify Enforcement (SAFE) Act, which would criminalize transporting undocumented persons to hospitals, soup kitchens or churches.

“As a nation, do we want to go down this road again?,” Kicanas asked, according Vatican Radio. "Do we want to criminalize millions of persons who have built equities in this country, jail them, and separate them from their families? Instead of fixing a broken system, would we want to jail nuns and other good Samaritans who are simply aiding their fellow human beings, consistent with their faith?”

Instead of enforcement, Kicanas said, the USCCB favors comprehensive immigration reform.

“The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops supported the President’s executive action on immigration because it would help as many as 4 million persons and keep an untold number of families together,” he told lawmakers.

"We believe that the best way to secure our borders and to ensure that our immigration laws are just and humane is to enact comprehensive immigration reform legislation that prioritizes family unity while targeting limited resources on those who endanger our society and are a threat to public safety," he added.

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