US Prelate Laments Leadership Gap on Immigration

Calls for More Effective US-Mexico Dialogue

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WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 24, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles is lamenting the current impasse on the issue of immigration in the United States due to a lack of leadership.

The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration stated this Monday at the Catholic University of America in an address on «The Immigration Debate and U.S.-Mexico Relations: A Catholic Perspective.»

«I understand the political frustration over this issue,» the prelate acknowledged. «There has been a failure of leadership — and this failure of leadership cuts across party lines.

«The reasons for the stalemate on this issue are understandable — from a political standpoint. But from a moral standpoint, the results are intolerable and inexcusable.»

«I am not a politician, but a pastor of souls,» the archbishop affirmed. «As a pastor, I am deeply concerned about the costs of this impasse in the lives of millions of men, women, and children.»

He expressed concern for «the souls of the 12 million without papers who are living at the margins of our society,» but also for «their physical, moral, and spiritual health.»

Archbishop Gomez stated: «When you are a stranger in a strange land — and unwanted — you are easy prey for exploitation.

«But more than that, when you are a stranger who is despised, it gets harder every day to hold onto your cultural identity, your moral compass, your religion, your dignity. You start to believe what people say about you — that you are no good.»

Social fabric

He added, «I’m also worried about our social fabric and civic debate.»

«Right now in this country,» the prelate observed, «there are a lot of people — a lot of good people — who are saying things they know they should never be saying about immigrants.»

He continued: «Their anger and frustration is understandable. But their rhetoric and many of their political responses are not worthy of America’s proud history as a beacon of hope for the world’s poor and persecuted.»

«Our current policies of enforcement — detentions, and deportations — are a humanitarian tragedy,» the archbishop said.

«It is true that many immigrants are in our country illegally,» he noted. «That bothers me. I don’t like it when our rule of law is flouted. And I support just and appropriate punishments.»

«But right now,» Archbishop Gomez stated, «we are imposing penalties that leave wives without husbands, children without parents.»

«We can find a better way,» he urged.

Catholic perspective

The prelate suggested that this «begins with the Catholic perspective,» and with «seeing immigrants as human beings,» as «mothers and fathers» and «children of God.»

He stated: «Practically speaking, I would like to see a moratorium on new state and local immigration legislation.

«And, as the U.S. bishops have called for, I would like to see an end to the severe deportation policies.»

«I also would like to see our two governments begin to talk about some of the underlying issues,» the archbishop said.

He continued: «We need to find ways to encourage economic reforms and developments throughout Latin America, especially in the poorest countries in the region.

«We need to find ways to target economic development so that far fewer Mexicans will feel compelled to leave their homes to seek jobs and money in other countries.»

«We need to muster the political will to fix our broken immigration system,» Archbishop Gomez urged.

He expressed the belief that «today’s immigrants — like generations of immigrants before them — are the hope for tomorrow’s America.»

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On the Net:

Full text: www.la-archdiocese.org/archbishop/Documents/2011-0321_Address_CUA.pdf

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