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Archbishop Gomez emphasizes dignity of immigrants on eve of inauguration

20 Jan 2017 – By J.D. Long-Garcia

LOS ANGELES (CNS) — On the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration as U.S. president, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez renewed the call to recognize the humanity of immigrants at a Vatican-sponsored migration conference at the University of California in Los Angeles.

“People do not cease to be human — they do not cease to be our brothers and sisters — just because they have an irregular immigration status,” the archbishop said in a keynote address closing the “Workshop on Humanitarianism and Mass Migration” Jan. 19. “They are children of God and they are brothers and sisters. Our family.”

The Jan. 18-19 conference — sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the Ross Institute of New York, and the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA — brought together leading scientists, policymakers and philanthropists.

“The fundamental crisis that forced displacement and mass migration are generating represents the most significant concern of all men and women of good faith,” said Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, a UCLA professor who specializes on migration. “Our work was inspired by so many of our colleagues here today.”

Suarez-Orozco and Msgr. Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, a professor at Maria Santissima Assunta Free University in Rome, served as the conference chairs. The city of Los Angeles, home to millions of immigrants, was an appropriate location to host the dialogue, Suarez-Orozco said when introducing Archbishop Gomez.

“Tonight — in this city and in immigrant neighborhoods all across this country — there is a lot of fear, a lot of uncertainty and a lot of anger,” the archbishop said. “Because our new president campaigned with harsh rhetoric about foreigners and sweeping promises to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.”

Los Angeles is home to an estimated 1 million immigrants in the country without legal permission, he said. The archbishop also said that politics is not the answer.

“We know that both political parties are exploiting the immigration issue for their own purposes,” he said. “That is sad to say, but it is true. And it has been happening for years.”

While expressing concerns about the incoming president, Archbishop Gomez also noted that President Barack Obama had deported more immigrants than any administration in U.S. history — 2.5 million over the past eight years.

“The vast majority of those that we are deporting are not violent criminals,” he said. “In fact, up to one-quarter are mothers and fathers that our government is seizing and removing from ordinary households. Nobody talks about this, but we see it every day here in L.A. When the government comes to deport people, they are taking away some little girl’s dad, some little boy’s mom.”

The estimated 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally arrived over the past 20 years, the archbishop noted. The government at every level failed to enforce immigration laws, he said.

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