A Time for Immigration Reform

patriotic immigrantsApril 23 marks the 20th anniversary of the passing of César Chávez, the great Mexican-American civil rights leader.

Chávez inspires me. He lived his Catholic faith with deep devotion and courage. And his love for God led him to struggle for justice and dignity for the poor.

It is fitting that we remember this anniversary as Congress begins debating comprehensive immigration reform. The legislation that is being introduced this week in the U.S. Senate is long overdue. Immigration reform is the civil rights test of our generation.

Many people still don’t understand the Church’s commitment to this cause. For me it’s a question of human rights and human dignity. It is a question of who we are as people and as a nation.

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

This is not good. 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.

Undocumented immigrants should be held accountable. The question is, How?

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.

The U.S. Bishops believe that real reform means providing a generous path to citizenship and a system that supports families and children.

We want reforms so that immigrant families can remain together. We want reforms so that migrant farmworkers and others are not exploited. And we want reforms so our brothers and sisters can live with the dignity that God intends for them.

So let us pray this week for our leaders and for our country and for the millions of our neighbors who are waiting for true immigration reform. And let us try to live our faith during these important debates.

César Chávez once said: “I think there are three elements to my faith. It’s God, myself and my neighbor. … I’m Catholic traditional. I go to Church regularly and faithfully. … But besides that … I go out and do things. … I think Christ really taught us …. Clothe the naked, feed the hungry and give water to the thirsty. It’s very simple stuff and that’s what we’ve got to do. … We’ve got to give our faith an essence through deeds.”

Let us ask Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Mother of the Americas, to help us to live our faith through deeds.


Archbishop Jose H. Gomez


Jose H. Gomez is the Archbishop of Los Angeles.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • Obama_Dogeater

    Once again, the bishops are on the WRONG side of an issue. Sigh. There’s nothing Christian nor noble about aiding those who break the law to come here and take jobs from legal citizens.

  • John

    I’m afraid it’s not that simple.

  • Obama_Dogeater

    No, it’s pretty simple. Illegal aliens chose to break the law, let them deal with the consequences of being caught and deported. God gives us the same free will…if we chose to live a sinful life, we don’t get to Heaven, even if our families are there. Is that fair? Ask Him.

  • How about we start enforcing the laws to close the border before we set up more programs to entice more illegals to come. Also, how about all these illegals sign a waiver stating they will not ask for any welfare, food stamps, Obamphones, disability, housing subsidies, etc. before we put them on the road to ciizenship? It should also be noted that there are not enough jobs for everyone now. I have studied this issue and one of the most strtling statistics is that the unemployment among young blacks is 25-30% where the illegal immigrant population is the highest. The current administration keeps this population appeased by giving more and more freebies and then claims we need more immigrants because no one will do the work. I bet if we ended many of these programs you would be surprised how many would show up for these jobs. We take in 1,000,000 legal immigrants/year which is more than the rest of the world combined! I’m tired of being made to feel like the US isn’t doing its part when we do more than the rest of the world combined. Perhaps the Archbishop will give us a number when we finally meet our moral obligations? Given that about half the world population would like to come here perhaps it would be good to have a number of what might be finally doing our part. By the way, my wife is part Hispanic so don’t throw the bigot line at me.

  • “The U.S. Bishops believe that real reform means providing a generous path to citizenship and a system that supports families and children.”
    There is plenty in his Eminence’s article that truly misrepresents life on the planet. For the sake of brevity and clarity I will confine myself to the quoted statement above.
    If this is the bishops’ conscience on this matter, then they have committed themselves to the one plank on this platform of questionable wisdom that will guarantee that for their lifetimes and likely for my grandchildren’s abortion on demand, government provided contraception, euthanasia, and even outright persecution of the Church in the public square will be the law of the land in this country. And if in this country, to where may oppressed Catholics look or turn for temporal assistance or defense? When twenty million new Hispanic (and that is what has Gomez’ balls in an uproar here, pure racial bias on his part) voters take to the polls, they will vote for free stuff as did their forebears (current Hispanic voters in the last election). The party of free stuff is the Democrat party and they are also the committed part of death as healthcare, as social remedy, as public policy. Sorry bishops, but if this is what you come up with when you get together, you need to be kept apart permanently.

  • Perhaps readers would be interested in this Chavez biography. http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/04/01/The-Cult-of-Cesar-Chavez
    The discussion of immigration reform is not one issue. It is many and allowing one group to gain access by means of anarchy will deprive those who have waited in line. It will result in other families not being able to be united legally and necessitate great expense for family unity. The fact that it would cause a great assault on the two party system, social welfare programs and the cost of education to legal citizens can not be overlooked. I would ask the Archbishop where are his speeches and statements telling the Mexican government specifically to clean up their act and take care of their people.
    Why is the USA the only one charged with making it all right? Why does the Archbishop not work towards urging our unemployed to work in the fields? How is he proposing the end of the attractions for people to do the wrong thing and steal their entry into the country? Instead, this taxpayer keeps hearing the never ending petitioning by the Bishops for more taxpayer funded programs for immigrants from the same taxpayers whose kids are going into extreme debt for a four year degree and have no full-time employment when they graduate. The grant of immigration is a privilege and we should be able to grant it on a case by case bases, not because there has been a stampede aided as it has been by grants from the CCHD community organizing programs that have lobbied for more social welfare programs. The USCCB does not have a spokesperson who will discuss the solutions in terms of the economic realities of the marketplace.
    I am pro-immigration as my husband is an immigrant and my son in law can not come to the USA on a visitor visa because he has been denied as an illegal immigration risk. My mother in law is in a nursing home in India and we have to travel 2-4 times a year to check on her. We pay a lot of taxes and I have not voted democrat because of the life, defense and taxpayer issues. I have a lot to lose with this immigration proposal the good Archbishop is lobbying for in this current comprehensive immigration approach.

  • branislav

    Gomez is a marxist mascarading as a churchman.Just like his predecessor mahoney, the sodomite marxist, their job is to destroy the Catholic Church. Sad they have been succeeding for 50 plus years. Will Christ find any faith when he returns.

  • JTLiuzza

    His Grace is a one trick socialist pony. How about focus on the salvation of souls? That is your job.

  • Brent

    I like your idea of no welfare for a certain period of time. I think it should not only apply for the time when they are on the road to citizenship, but for a few years after as well. Otherwise, new citizens will just be indebted to the party handing out the freebies. Also, if we are increasing the number of citizens, don’t we want to increase the number of tax payers, not tax takers? Otherwise, what’s the point?

    If politicians are going to use the whole “we are a nation of immigrants” speech, then let’s look at how many of our ancestors came into this country. If you came through Ellis Island, did you immediately get government assistance? Nope. You had to work hard and scrap your way through for the hope that one day your descendants will have a better life.

  • J D

    Since when is it news that the United Socialist Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) is panting for another murdering-marxist, please excuse the redundancy. It;s kind of like saying lesbian-feminist. Not necessary. Terms are interchangeable..


  • JRB

    How would Mexicans react if 30 million white Americans went to Mexico, committed crime at a much higher rate that native Mexicans, distributed drugs to Mexican teenagers in their high schools, and DEMANDED that all education and even citizenship ceremonies be in English?

    I would like to ask the Archbishop how much immigration is sufficient. When 50% of the US is Spanish speaking Mexican? 70%? 100%?

    Does the Archbishop promote amnesty for illegals because he really cares about America, or because he is Mexican born and wants to see Mexico conquer is “lost territories” from the imperialist US?

    How about the rights of native born Americans? Their rights not be invaded, robbed, and murdered by the many criminals who sneak across the border?

    Maybe the Archbishop is influenced by the far leftist desire to see all borders and nations dissolve into one big world government, under the auspices of the UN.