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Bishops say U.S. must address needs of immigrants, show compassion

10 Mar 2017 – By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) — While one Catholic archbishop was urging a fix to the country’s immigration laws before a Catholic crowd, another was pleading with the government not to separate mothers from their children while in immigration detention, and yet another, a cardinal, was accompanying a grandfather to an appointment that could have resulted in his deportation.

Catholic Church leaders in the U.S. spent the week of March 6-10 trying to allay fears, urging compassion, not just from the government from those who are not seeing “God’s creation” when they malign unauthorized immigrants.

“In the church, we say, ‘¡Somos familia!’ Immigrants are our family. We say, ‘En las buenas y en las malas.’ In the good times and in the bad. We always stay together,” said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, in a March 8 address to those who attended the Napa Institute’s Washington conference. “That is why the church has always been at the center of our debates about immigration. And we always will be. We cannot leave our family alone, without a voice.”

Archbishop Gomez, vice president of the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops, said immigration is the “human rights test of our time” and said that having a policy that solely focuses on deportations without addressing reform of the immigration system risks causing “a human rights nightmare.”

He said it’s not morally acceptable to say: “It’s their own fault,” or “This is what they get for breaking our laws.”

“They are still people, children of God, no matter what they did wrong,” Archbishop Gomez said.

He said he was concerned because people seem to be incapable of showing mercy, or to see in another person, for example, an unauthorized immigrant, a child of God.

“And so we are willing to accept injustices and abuses that we should never accept,” he said.

In Texas, Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio was pleading with the government to stop plans that would separate children from mothers in immigration detention centers, a proposal confirmed by U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly March 6.

Calling it an “unjust and inhumane method of border enforcement,” Archbishop Garcia-Siller said the proposal had been put out into the public sphere with the suggestion “that once this is known, it will serve an example to discourage future such attempts at entering our country illegally.”

“With my brother bishops and millions of people of goodwill, I must say that the willful separation of families is a terrible injustice on its face!” he said in a March 8 statement, adding that it is “an assault on the human dignity we proclaim and uphold.”

Archbishop Gomez in his address said politics today are more divided “than I can ever remember” and “by our inaction and indifference we have created a quiet human rights tragedy that is playing out in communities all across this great country.”





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