Catholic bishops, cardinals decry Arizona immigration law

By Bishop Gabino Zavala The Catholic tradition often speaks of the “dignity of the human person,” and we hear it … Continued

By Bishop Gabino Zavala

The Catholic tradition often speaks of the “dignity of the human person,” and we hear it so often that it’s easy to lose sight of the pressing urgency and implications of this mandate. But the present controversy surrounding SB 1070 in Arizona prompts us to reconsider the immediate relevance of this tenet. As a Catholic, my faith emphatically tells me that honoring human dignity is essential to a just society. This profound belief that God’s love and life are for everyone, especially the most vulnerable, compels me to action. Our tradition insists this commitment to the common good must inform our politics on a fundamental level. And it must inform our commitment both to advocating for comprehensive immigration reform and standing against SB 1070.

The Hebrew and Christian scriptures remind us time and again that God casts his tent among our most marginalized sisters and brothers. Throughout the Bible, God calls on us to stand with the outsider, the stranger, the excluded. Just last month, I stood with a young woman, Liliana, when she received a deportation order– an order that would separate her from her husband and her children, all of whom are US citizens. Liliana is a hardworking wife and mother who has contributed to our society and is beloved in her community, and now she’s being forced to leave her life and her family. Today in our country, the outsiders and the excluded, those whose dignity is threatened daily, are the millions of immigrants living and working in the Unites States like Liliana, people “whose wages we have underpaid, whose provisions for healthcare we have resented, despite their back-breaking work to provide for our dinner tables,” as Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles reminded us recently.

At the end of July, when parts of SB 1070 went into effect, Interfaith Worker Justice, on whose board I serve, organized a nationwide weekend of prayer and action. Hundreds of people of faith rallied against the law, both in Arizona and in cities across the county. Faith leaders preached about the need for a society that honors God’s commandment to love our neighbors, and made a plea for civility in our public dialogue. I was inspired to see the ways people continue to stand with the excluded and the marginalized, regardless of their immigration status.

While it was heartening that federal judge Susan Bolton temporarily barred the most egregious provisions in SB 1070 from going into effect, much remains to be done, particularly because the courts still need to decide which provisions will be permanently excluded. We celebrate that police cannot insist that anyone they deem suspicious provide documents proving citizenship, as the legislation called for, and that authorities are not permitted to indefinitely detain people until their immigration status is resolved. Other troubling aspects of the law still stand however, and we continue to oppose them. For instance, it remains a crime to provide refuge for immigrants without documentation, and here our moral obligation to provide companionship and hospitality to those in need directly contradicts the law.

From my work with all the Lilianas in our communities, I know that too many families have already been ravaged by our dysfunctional immigration laws. Too many congregations and communities are paralyzed by fear and marginalized by increasingly hostile rhetoric. We must remember that those who make the terrible and often life-threatening journey to the U.S. do so because they have insufficient opportunity in their native lands to provide for themselves and their families. Migration to another country is not something undertaken lightly. These people come to this country for a better life, and are met with inhumane and hostile laws like SB 1070. We cannot stand for this.

The challenge before us today requires that we discern and honor the dignity of each of our immigrant neighbors. As a community of faith, we are all people on a pilgrimage, a migrant people, hoping to arrive in the freedom of God’s love, a love that has nothing to do with terrestrial borders. If we neglect the dignity of our immigrant neighbors, a dignity that issues directly from God, then we neglect our own and remove ourselves from the loving freedom that is the sure inheritance of us all.

Bishop Gabino Zavala is Auxiliary Bishop for Los Angeles, Adjunct Professor of Canon Law at Loyola Marymount University, and President of the Board of Directors of Interfaith Worker Justice.

  • jeffreed

    I want to remind everyone about the good Cardinal Mahony. He did everything in his power to prevent authorities from looking into what the church did or did not know about priests molesting little boys. He found the feds all the way to the Supreme Court where of course he lost. To this day, it is far from clear whether he has come clean on what he did or did not know about priests abusing children. Simply put, this man has no ethics or morals and no one should listen to him on anything to do with ethics or morality and he is a disgusting human being. Enough said.

  • StLou

    You need to clean your house up first. Deal with those homo priests!!

  • mikeghouse

    We all should stand up against any form of bigotry expressed – here was my speech at the immigration rally in Dallas – Mike Ghouse

  • brianc2221

    As a practicing Catholic, I’d like to ask the bishop what part of the word “illegal” he doesn’t understand.

  • brianc2221

    Jeffreed is correct. Cardinal Mahoney is hardly a paragon of virtue or justice or Christianity for that matter.

  • BerkeleyBW

    These religious types who cite faith as an excuse for lawbreaking are truly reprehensible. The illegals come here and take the jobs that were mostly held by American poor people, often minorities. How is job displacement morally defensible when 15 million citizens are jobless? How are young people from disadvantaged backgrounds supposed to get a first job, often in the summer or after school, when those jobs are now taken by foreigners working full time?At least proper Marxists say to take from the rich in their wealth redistribution. The open-borders clerics are happy to take from the American poor to give to the illegal immigrant poor, who are somehow thought to be more deserving by the self-appointed morality experts.Not by me.

  • HostileKnowledge

    I am not nor have I ever been “anti-Catholic.” But the Catholic leadership in this country has become an organized crime syndicate in the promotion and sheltering of illegal immigrants. They do this for no other reason other than to increase the numbers of their flock and their wealth through tithing. The idea that ANY church can claim a moral high ground while promoting an “open borders” position in direct defiance against a nation’s right to sovereignty is both ludicrous and malevolent. I get really sick and tired of the whole “open borders” mob. You crapweasels are beyond insane. Yours is like the tortured howls of straitjacketed lunatics escaping from the padded rooms of insane asylums. The malignant scourge of multiculturalism is killing this nation’s soul. And right behind the death of the soul the body will die.Beware false prophets.

  • wandagb

    I’ll take my cues on illegal immigration from a more righteous and intelligent priest – Father Patrick J. Bascio.

  • jeffreed

    I have a question for anyone who reads this blow, reads the comments, and then writes a comment. Why has the Catholic Church taken up the cause of illegal immigrants? I cannot supply a definitive answer to this question, but I can offer what I think is the answer. For the past two decades the Catholic Church as fought tooth and nail to block investigations into the abuse of children by priests. One consequence of their actions has been that many traditional Catholics – Irish, Polish,Italian, and so forth – have ceased to support the church. Without immigrants from the Americas the Catholic Church would be in a death spiral in this country. Therefore, to continue to be a viable church the Catholic Church has embraced the idea that it should support the legalization of millions upon millions of illegal aliens who happen to also be Catholics. My point is quite simple: The Catholic Church as not taken a moral or ethical stand on immigration general or illegal immigration in particular, but a rather cynical ploy to survive. I am curious as to what others think. Thank you.

  • DonVicente

    Most of the AZ law is simply a word-for-word restating of existing FEDERAL law. LEGAL immigrants have been required to carry documents (e.g. “green card”) with them since 1940. So where were the Catholic bishops in 1940 when the Federal law was passed?

  • ahard

    It is very disconcerting that a Bishop would use his position to be so unjust to so many legal, American residents who are out of work, and who have been supporting those illegal immigrants who sneak into this country to take advantage of it.I live in the middle of this mess. The Bishop speaks of those who come for a better life and that they do not undertake illegal entry lightly. What he does not know, or fails to mention, is that the Mexican soap operas and the talk shows as well as just conventional wisdom in Mexico propagandizes the people about streets of gold in America and minimizes the dangers of crossing the border illegally. We have people all the time crossing without help of coyotes, who barely get across the border and ask “Is this Phoenix?” We have people living right next to us who come here on visitor passes, fail to register their cars and therefore pay no insurance and are uncatchable when they lie for social services and commit crimes. They do not work and they have their anchor babies for social services. The women now know to lie about spousal abuse so they can claim asylum. None of these people are refugees, or true asylum seekers. None of them are starving, or even badly clothed. They have a home to go back to in almost every case while we have homeless women and children in our desert who are not being helped by the Catholic Church.The Bishop fails to mention that JPII, the only Pope who addressed, in 1996, the problem of illegal immigration said the deportation was acceptable if legality was not reasonably available and that the best solution was to force the sending countries to fix the social and economic problems which encourage illegal immigration.The Bishop’s talk about the Scriptures is leas than theologically accurate. Those admonitions which he cites are usually found in Church teachings about refugees, asylum seekers and legal immigrants who face discrimination not about illegal immigrants.This man proves that a miter does not make you smart or just or compassionate.

  • ahard

    It is very disconcerting that a Bishop would use his position to be so unjust to so many legal, American residents who are out of work, and who have been supporting those illegal immigrants who sneak into this country to take advantage of it.I live in the middle of this mess. The Bishop speaks of those who come for a better life and that they do not undertake illegal entry lightly. What he does not know, or fails to mention, is that the Mexican soap operas and the talk shows as well as just conventional wisdom in Mexico propagandizes the people about streets of gold in America and minimizes the dangers of crossing the border illegally. We have people all the time crossing without help of coyotes, who barely get across the border and ask “Is this Phoenix?” We have people living right next to us who come here on visitor passes, fail to register their cars and therefore pay no insurance and are uncatchable when they lie for social services and commit crimes. They do not work and they have their anchor babies for social services. The women now know to lie about spousal abuse so they can claim asylum. None of these people are refugees, or true asylum seekers. None of them are starving, or even badly clothed. They have a home to go back to in almost every case while we have homeless women and children in our desert who are not being helped by the Catholic Church.The Bishop fails to mention that JPII, the only Pope who addressed, in 1996, the problem of illegal immigration said the deportation was acceptable if legality was not reasonably available and that the best solution was to force the sending countries to fix the social and economic problems which encourage illegal immigration.The Bishop’s talk about the Scriptures is leas than theologically accurate. Those admonitions which he cites are usually found in Church teachings about refugees, asylum seekers and legal immigrants who face discrimination not about illegal immigrants.This man proves that a miter does not make you smart or just or compassionate.

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