Archbishop Jose H. Gomez
Archbishop Los Angeles
March 17, 2017
(Editor ‘s note: On March 8, Archbishop Gomez gave a speech to a meeting of Catholic and other political and business leaders at a symposium organized by the Napa Institute in Washington DC The text below is adapted from his speech . to read his full speech: “where do we go from here Why do not we wait for immigration reform”, visit their website. ArchbishopGomez.com)
Long ago we should have addressed the issue of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living within our borders. I want to propose a solution for that today.
By our inaction and indifference we have created a silent tragedy in the area of human rights.
A vast underclass has grown to the margins of our society. And it seems that we have accepted. Millions of men and women live as our perpetual servants, working for low wages in our restaurants and in our field; in our factories, gardens, villas and hotels.
At this point, all we have to resemble a “political” national immigration is something that is completely focused deporting these people. And we deport about 3 million in the past decade.
And what is the sad reality? Most of those who are deported are not violent criminals. In fact, even a quarter of those whom our government is capturing and removing from ordinary homes are mothers and parents.
No one disputes the fact that we should be deporting violent criminals. But what public policy purpose is being met by depriving her dad to a small, or by stripping her mother to a child?
Most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants have been living in this country for 5 years or more. Two – thirds have been here for a decade at least. Almost half they are living at home with your spouse and children.
This means that a policy focusing on deportation, which does not involve a reform of the underlying immigration system will only punish children and break up families.
As a pastor, I do not think is an acceptable moral response saying, “They deserve it . This is what happens for violating our laws ”
They are still people, still children of God, despite what they have done wrong.
Jesus tells us that we will be judged by our love and our compassion. He said: “I was a foreigner , ” an immigrant. He made no distinction between legal and illegal.
So how do we move forward?
These 11 million undocumented immigrants did not arrive from the overnight. It is rather something that happened over the last 20 years. It happened because our government – in all its levels failed in their obligation to enforce our immigration laws.
This is a hard truth , but we have to accept. We are a nation based on laws, but for many years, government officials and law enforcement were avoiding addressing the problem because US companies require hand “cheap” and abundant labor.
That does not justify people break these laws, but explains why things reached this level.
Now, I strongly believe in personal responsibility and to be accountable. But I have to ask why the only people we are punishing them is to undocumented workers, parents of ordinary families who came here seeking a better life for their children.
Why we are not punishing businesses that hired them , or government officials did not enforce our laws? That did not seem right.
And what about us? Do we not also share some responsibility for this? We “benefit” every day of an economy built on undocumented labor.
From my point of view pastor, there is plenty of blame to assume. And that means there are many opportunities to show mercy.
Mercy is not a denial of justice. Mercy is the quality with which we demonstrate our righteousness. Mercy is the way we can move forward.
I am not proposing that “forgive and forget.” If required by the law must be respected, there must be consequences for those who break our laws.
Currently, we have made deportation a “mandatory sentence” for anyone who is found without proper documents. We are not interested in the circumstances involved or take into account the “difficult cases”.
Illegal immigration is perhaps the only crime for which we do not tolerate plea bargains or lesser sentences. That does not seem right.
A simple proposal: Why not demand that undocumented immigrants pay a small fine, or provide community service? Why not ask them to prove they have a job, who are paying taxes and learning English?
This seems to be a fair and proportionate punishment.
But besides the punishment, we must give these people some certainty about what their status to live in this country.
Most of the 11 million who are fathers and mothers have children who are citizens of this country. They should be able to raise their children in peace, without fear that one day change his mind and deportemos. Therefore, we need to establish for them a way to “normalize” their status. Personally, I think we should give them the opportunity to one day become US citizens.
We are currently experiencing a lot of fear and frustration in this country. I can understand why some of this has focused on strangers who have come because of a broken immigration system.
But we can achieve a balance between law and love.
This week, tengámonos present to each other in prayer. And pray for our brothers and sisters, both those who are refugees, and those who are undocumented.
And this week we offer special prayers for our leaders.
May our Blessed Mother Mary guide them to find a way to make progress on immigration reform, which is so crucial for our families and for our country. VN
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The new book by Archbishop José H. Gomez, ‘Immigration and the future of the United States of America’ is available in the store of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. ( www.olacathedralgifts.com ).
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