Cardinal vows to defy anti-immigrant bill

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Cardinal vows to defy anti-immigrant bill

Post by admin » Thu Mar 02, 2006 2:37 pm


Cardinal vows to defy anti-immigrant bill

By PETER PRENGAMAN, Associated Press Writer
(Published: March 1, 2006)

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony said Wednesday he would instruct his priests to defy a proposed federal requirement that churches check the legal status of parishioners before helping them.

The U.S. House of Representatives included the requirement in an immigration bill that the Senate Judiciary Committee is to begin debating this week. The legislation also would penalize social organizations that refuse to meet its requirements.

When asked if he would be willing to go to jail for the stance, Mahony said "yes" because "helping people in need were actions that are part of God's mercy."

Mahony, a longtime advocate of immigrant rights who oversees a racially diverse archdiocese of more than 4 million people, used Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season to urge Catholics to "make room" for immigrants.

"Unless you are a Native American, everyone in here is the son or daughter of immigrants," said Mahony, speaking during Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

Mahony told those attending Mass he was not in favor of "unfettered immigration," but that the current system was inhumane and inefficient. He said stringent laws and government bureaucracy meant immigrants were often separated up to 15 years from family members trying to immigrate.

"We need reform that looks to family unification," he said. "What we have now is broken and invites violation."

U.S. Roman Catholic bishops support a guest-worker program, legalizing undocumented immigrants and more visas for migrants' families.

Mahony has long advocated for immigrant rights and opposed the 1994 state proposition that tried to deny public benefits to illegal immigrants. The proposition was approved by voters but struck down by federal courts as unconstitutional.


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The Gospel vs. H.R. 4437

Post by admin » Fri Mar 03, 2006 11:29 pm

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/03/opini ... ref=slogin

EditorialMarch 3, 2006

The Gospel vs. H.R. 4437

It has been a long time since this country heard a call to organized lawbreaking on this big a scale. Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation's largest, urged parishioners on Ash Wednesday to devote the 40 days of Lent to fasting, prayer and reflection on the need for humane reform of immigration laws. If current efforts in Congress make it a felony to shield or offer support to illegal immigrants, Cardinal Mahony said, he will instruct his priests — and faithful lay Catholics — to defy the law.

The cardinal's focus of concern is H.R. 4437, a bill sponsored by James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin and Peter King of New York. This grab bag legislation, which was recently passed by the House, would expand the definition of "alien smuggling" in a way that could theoretically include working in a soup kitchen, driving a friend to a bus stop or caring for a neighbor's baby. Similar language appears in legislation being considered by the Senate this week.

The enormous influx of illegal immigrants and the lack of a coherent federal policy to handle it have prompted a jumble of responses by state and local governments, stirred the passions of the nativist fringe, and reinforced anxieties since 9/11. Cardinal Mahony's defiance adds a moral dimension to what has largely been a debate about politics and economics. "As his disciples, we are called to attend to the last, littlest, lowest and least in society and in the church," he said.

The cardinal is right to argue that the government has no place criminalizing the charitable impulses of private institutions like his, whose mission is to help people with no questions asked. The Los Angeles Archdiocese, like other religious organizations across the country, runs a vast network of social service programs offering food and emergency shelter, child care, aid to immigrants and refugees, counseling services, and computer and job training. Through Catholic Charities and local parishes, the church is frequently the help of last resort for illegal immigrants in need. It should not be made an arm of the immigration police as well.

Cardinal Mahony's declaration of solidarity with illegal immigrants, for whom Lent is every day, is a startling call to civil disobedience, as courageous as it is timely. We hope it forestalls the day when works of mercy become a federal crime.


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Called by God to Help

Post by admin » Fri Mar 31, 2006 1:47 pm

March 22, 2006

Op-Ed Contributor

Called by God to Help
By ROGER MAHONY

Los Angeles

I'VE received a lot of criticism for stating last month that I would instruct the priests of my archdiocese to disobey a proposed law that would subject them, as well as other church and humanitarian workers, to criminal penalties. The proposed Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives in December and is expected to be taken up by the Senate next week, would among other things subject to five years in prison anyone who "assists" an undocumented immigrant "to remain in the United States."

Some supporters of the bill have even accused the church of encouraging illegal immigration and meddling in politics. But I stand by my statement. Part of the mission of the Roman Catholic Church is to help people in need. It is our Gospel mandate, in which Christ instructs us to clothe the naked, feed the poor and welcome the stranger. Indeed, the Catholic Church, through Catholic Charities agencies around the country, is one of the largest nonprofit providers of social services in the nation, serving both citizens and immigrants.

Providing humanitarian assistance to those in need should not be made a crime, as the House bill decrees. As written, the proposed law is so broad that it would criminalize even minor acts of mercy like offering a meal or administering first aid.

Current law does not require social service agencies to obtain evidence of legal status before rendering aid, nor should it. Denying aid to a fellow human being violates a law with a higher authority than Congress — the law of God.

That does not mean that the Catholic Church encourages or supports illegal immigration. Every day in our parishes, social service programs, hospitals and schools, we witness the baleful consequences of illegal immigration. Families are separated, workers are exploited and migrants are left by smugglers to die in the desert. Illegal immigration serves neither the migrant nor the common good.

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. Creating legal structures for migration protects not only those who migrate but also our nation, by giving the government the ability to better identify who is in the country as well as to control who enters it.

Only comprehensive reform of the immigration system, embodied in the principles of another proposal in Congress, the Secure America and Orderly Immigration bill, will help solve our current immigration crisis.

Enforcement-only proposals like the Border Protection act take the country in the opposite direction. Increasing penalties, building more detention centers and erecting walls along our border with Mexico, as the act provides, will not solve the problem.

The legislation will not deter migrants who are desperate to survive and support their families from seeking jobs in the United States. It will only drive them further into the shadows, encourage the creation of more elaborate smuggling networks and cause hardship and suffering. I hope that the Senate will not take the same enforcement-only road as the House.

The unspoken truth of the immigration debate is that at the same time our nation benefits economically from the presence of undocumented workers, we turn a blind eye when they are exploited by employers. They work in industries that are vital to our economy yet they have little legal protection and no opportunity to contribute fully to our nation.

While we gladly accept their taxes and sweat, we do not acknowledge or uphold their basic labor rights. At the same time, we scapegoat them for our social ills and label them as security threats and criminals to justify the passage of anti-immigrant bills.

This situation affects the dignity of millions of our fellow human beings and makes immigration, ultimately, a moral and ethical issue. That is why the church is compelled to take a stand against harmful legislation and to work toward positive change.

It is my hope that our elected officials will understand this and enact immigration reform that respects our common humanity and reflects the values — fairness, compassion and opportunity — upon which our nation, a nation of immigrants, was built.

Roger Mahony is the cardinal archbishop of Los Angeles.


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