Catholic World News

Archbishop Gomez: ‘immigration reform is the civil rights test of our generation’

April 22, 2013

Writing in his archdiocesan newspaper, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles called immigration reform “the civil rights test of our generation.”

“It’s true that many immigrants crossed our borders without first getting a visa from our government,” he said. “Others came in through proper channels but decided to stay after their visas or other temporary permits ran out.”

“This is not good,” he continued. “We are a nation of laws. But for almost 20 years, our nation chose not to enforce our laws. We looked the other way because we needed these immigrants for our construction companies, service industries and farms. That’s a difficult truth. These men and women came here to work — and all of us have been depending on and benefitting from their work.”

Archbishop Gomez added:

Is it fair for our country not to enforce its laws for many years, and then suddenly to start punishing people who broke these laws? I don’t think so. But that’s our policy right now.

And it’s a cruel policy. The problem is the people we are punishing have become our neighbors. Most of those we call “illegal” have been living here for five years or more — two-thirds have been here for at least a decade. Almost half are living in homes with a spouse and children.

In the last four years alone we have deported more than 1 million people. About a quarter of them were living in a home with their children and families.

Of course, we are not just talking about “statistics.” We are talking about families.

We’re talking about parents who, with no warning, won’t be coming home for dinner tonight — and who may not see their families again for a decade at least.

Because of the broken logic of our current laws, it can take more than 10 years to get into this country legally. The waiting lists are even longer for applicants from most Latin American countries.

So we need to understand what it really means when politicians and people in the media say things like, “Illegal immigrants should leave the country and get back in line to enter the country legally.”

When we say that, we’re asking them to choose not to see their spouse, their children, their relatives for a decade or more. Is that a fair question to ask them? What would we do if we were faced with that kind of choice? Would we follow a law that means maybe never seeing our families again?

These are some of the hard questions that we have to ask ourselves as our leaders begin debating immigration reform. How we respond is a challenge to our conscience — and a measure of our humanity.


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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: michaelwilmes - Apr. 23, 2013 10:56 PM ET USA

    WRONG, Abp Gomez! Abortion IS and continues to be THE civil rights issue of not only this generation, but the previous generation as well.

  • Posted by: unum - Apr. 22, 2013 11:04 PM ET USA

    Once again, a bishop (one that I respect) makes a statement on a political issue without reference to Church teaching, so he becomes just another political voice in the debate. What does the Church teach about immigration? Why does the Church's teaching support the proposed immigration reform? I still haven't a clue, thanks to the USCCB.

  • Posted by: Bernadette - Apr. 22, 2013 7:58 PM ET USA

    Separated families? What about the legal immigrants from other parts of the world who often leave home and family members for years and years before they can join them in America? Many of the Mexican illegals leave families behind and start up new families here. They figure they were only civilly married to the woman in Mexico, it was not a sacramental marriage, so they are free to start here with someone else. You can imagine the problems our priests are having trying to evangelize them.

  • Posted by: jacquebquique5708 - Apr. 22, 2013 12:59 PM ET USA

    I agree with AB Gomez who by the way has a degree in accounting. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that there are those on the right as well as on the left who are salivating to use this issue to their own political advantage. Those of the left have linked abortion rights with immigration rights. Those of the right have tied together the issues of gun control with immigration rights. We must look to such as Archbishop Gomez to lead this reform in the most logical manner possible not emotional.

  • Posted by: Defender - Apr. 22, 2013 10:26 AM ET USA

    While I agree that laws on illegal immigration haven't been entirely enforced in some 20 years or so (since the last amnesty program of two million people), when is enough, enough? Do we really want open borders where anyone may enter? Let's ignore a bunch of other laws because they haven't been entirely enforced (and we don't like them). Broken logic? The archbishop shows a lot of it himself.