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CURRENT ISSUE:  April 3, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 7Oakland, CA

Immigration present norm 'serves no one'

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CNS) -- Saying that the current immigration situation in the U.S. serves neither immigrants nor the general public, California’s Catholic bishops asked for immigration reform that protects human dignity and fosters the common good.

They asked for bipartisan political efforts “to create a new immigration system which respects our common humanity.”
The two-page statement was issued March 21 by the California Catholic Conference in Sacramento. It is the public policy arm of the 14 California dioceses.

The following day, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles defended his decision to instruct his priests to disobey any future law that would criminally penalize them for aiding illegal immigrants.

“I stand by my statement,” he said in a March 22 opinion piece in The New York Times.

But this does not mean he supports illegal immigration, he said.
“Illegal immigration serves neither the migrant nor the common good,” said the cardinal. “What the church supports is an overhaul of the immigration system so that legal status and legal channels for migration replace illegal status and illegal immigration.”

In pre-Lenten newspaper interviews, the cardinal said that he would instruct his priests to continue providing services to illegal immigrants even if such aid were declared illegal.

The California bishops’ statement called for legislation that includes “earned legalization for the undocumented and their families.”

They supported “reform that does not include sanctions for those who provide humanitarian aid for the undocumented.”

“We call for an answer that is humane, realistic and responsible while also serving our nation’s economic and security interests,” said the bishops.

In California large numbers of immigrants are already integrated into society, they said. “Their families go to our churches. They are our neighbors.”

Many immigrants are owners of businesses “creating employment and opportunities for others,” they said.

The bishops added that Jesus gave Catholics the example of the need to welcome the stranger “who was looked upon as an unholy outcast and foreigner.”

Cardinal Mahony’s article specifically criticized a bill passed by the House of Representatives which stresses enforcement of laws against illegal immigration and stricter border controls.

Enforcement-only legislation “will not deter migrants who are desperate to survive and support their families,” said the cardinal.
“It will only drive them further into the shadows, encourage the creation of more elaborate smuggling networks and cause hardship and suffering,” he said.


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