Gomez on Immigration

Gomez on Immigration May 28, 2010

From Rocco, the new coadjutor of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez, received extended applause for delivering the punchline that “”no one is an alien in the eyes of God.”

And here are his views in an extended interview:

“The Church’s interest in immigration is not a recent development. It doesn’t grow out of any political or partisan agenda. No. It is a part of our original religious identity as Catholics, as Christians. We must defend the immigrant if we are to be worthy of the name Catholic.

For bishops and priests, our job as pastors is to help form our peoples’ consciences, especially those who work in the business community and in government. We need to instill in our people a greater sense of their civic duty to work for reforms in a system that denies human dignity to so many…..

Unfortunately anti-immigrant sentiment and anti-Hispanic bias is a problem today, even among our fellow Catholics. I don’t want to over-dramatize the situation. But we do need to be honest and recognize that racial prejudice is a driving factor behind a lot of our political conversation about immigration.

In the bitter debates of recent years, I have been alarmed by the indifference of so many of our people to Catholic teaching and to the concrete demands of Christian charity.

It is not only the racism, xenophobia, and scapegoating. These are signs of a more troubling reality. Many of our Catholic people no longer see the foreigners sojourning among them as brothers and sisters. To listen to the rhetoric in the U.S. and elsewhere it is as if the immigrant is not a person, but only a thief or a terrorist or a simple work-animal.

We can never forget that Jesus himself and his family were migrants. They were forced into Egypt by the bad policies of a bad government. This was to show us Christ’s solidarity with refugees, displaced persons, and immigrants—in every time and in every place.

We all know these words of Jesus: “For I was a stranger and you welcomed me . . . As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:35, 40). We need to restore the truth that the love of God and the love of neighbor have been forever joined in the teaching—and in the person—of Jesus Christ.

Many of these new laws on immigration are harsh and punitive. The law should not be used to scare people, to invade their homes and work-sites, to break up families.

I would like to see a moratorium on new state and local legislation. And, as the U.S. bishops recently called for, I would like to see an end to federal work-site enforcement raids.

The bottom line is that as long as workers can earn more in one hour in the U.S. than they can earn in a day or a week in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, they will continue to migrate to this country. Immigration has to do with peoples’ rights to share in the goods they need to secure their livelihoods.”

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  • S.____.ot

    If one engages in a purely secular analysis of immigration, a cost-benefit analysis is usually the way to go. What benefits do new immigrants provide to society versus what costs are incurred? After weighing the respective costs and the benefits, the analyst can decide whether to favor robust immigration policies or oppose them for secular reasons alone.

    Archbishop Gomez makes clear (to me anyway) that applying a Catholic perspective to the immigration issue means tossing out the cost-benefit analysis in order to focus on our responsibilities as Christians to those in need. Speaking for myself, as an American Catholic who has neglected his responsibilties for too long, I support Achbishop Gomez’s efforts here.

  • I’m hearing zero about the World Bank listing Mexico as a high middle income country which means they can reimburse through oil revenues US cities and states (2 Billion this phenomenon is costing Arizona tax payers in medical and education bills etc). President Calderon of Mexico should be offering to pay these bills. He is not because he sees through our Bishops and he knows neither our press nor our Bishops nor our government will ever have the moxie to ask him to simply pay what he should pay.
    Our bishops have courage to rebuke laity but zero courage to rebuke Calderon and he knows it.
    Let the immigrants stay and let Mexico pay any surplus bills they cause…Mexico is well off as to the sons and daughters of the conquisdators who once again are shafting Mayans and Aztecs who have been shafted since Pope Alexander VI wrote his Inter Caeterae giving half the globe to Spain. That Pope was pro life and had more children than the average NFP couple…except that he was not supposed to have any children given his vocation. He and several other Popes were the font from which Latin America derived her imbalances of income proximately through the conquistadors and the encomienda system which took the best land for Spaniards and left the dregs for native people. Now are magisterium does not mention that but mentions the obligation of largely non Catholic USA to clean up what our Popes started in the period from 1452 til 1494 in some hellish bulls. Let’s pay for native Indians being uplifted and let Calderon and conquistador descendants pay for their sins separate from ours.

  • ben

    Gomez is an excellent bishop, we really enjoyed having him as auxiliary for the short time he was in Denver. He is always ready to stand up of the poor and the weak. His voice was always consistlently and loudly both pro-immigrant AND pro-life.

    Los Angeles is lucky to have him

  • Dave Greiner

    Bishop Gomez, by his own comments, is calling the Catholic church racist, because it doesn’t supply free tuition to all immigrants. The major issue is economic and safety. There is only a limited amount of money available for charity. I think that people like to help the poor, (regardless of race)But they don’t like money forcibly taken from their wallets.

  • Christopher

    The US Catholic Bishops at one moment stress heavily the concepts of national security and sovereignty when they are talking about issues such as Israel and Palestine and then the next moment those concepts seem irrelevant when discussing the immigration issues facing the United States.

    While conceding there is some racial prejudice (and potential for more), I don’t think it is accurate to say that prejudice is “driving factor” unless of course it is a fear of appearing prejudice that has made the federal government impotent to effectively seal the borders thereby forcing Arizona to take matters into their own hands. I would submit that the federal government has not adequately done its job out of fear of appearing prejudice or racist.

    Also, to say that “immigration has to do with people’s rights to share in the goods they need” accords illegal aliens “rights” that they are not (or should not) be entitled to under our constitution. Obviously, they have rights as human beings, created in the image of Almighty God, but those rights, such as humane treatment, freedom from violence, freedom from exploitation, are not synonymous with automatic citizenships because they successfully made it past U.S. customs agents on the border. U.S. taxpayer dollars, tens of millions of them, are spent every year on education, health care, and incarceration of illegal aliens. Additionally, the amount of drugs that cross the border into the US, resulting in addiction, broken families, crime, and additional millions spent on the U.S. “war on drugs” is a concern of epidemic proportion. And before President Calderon can say he is tired of guns leaving the US for Mexico, I would remind him that a sealed border works both ways: guns stay out of Mexico and drugs stay out of the US. That is a win-win situation.

    There is a long history of leaving the business of Church and State separate. Immigration is the business of the state and out of respect for those that live in this country: Catholic, non-Catholic, non-Christian, and atheist, the government needs to provide a solution that serves the needs of ALL its citizens. If the government were to formally adopt a position similar to one advocated for by some U.S. Bishops then the government and Church would look suspiciously cozy to many people that do not hold the same views of the Church. Wouldn’t that be interesting twist: the government and the Church in agreement?

    Unfortunately, I’m a little more than surprised that there is not more concern shown by the UNITED STATES bishops for the residents of the UNITED STATES. It doesn’t matter what state it is, the illegal immigration issue has broad, negative consequences for many people in the US (drugs, crime, violence, higher taxes, etc.) US citizens have a “right” to protection by their government and pastoral support from their bishops. It is as if the bishops (and the government) are saying, “Hey, since Jesus’ family was forced into Egypt, illegal immigration is a good thing and you need to stop being so selfish for wanting border security.” I realize I’m making a bit of a caricature of it, but no more so than that of Bishop Gomez in his remarks.

    There is need for compassion and I understand that is more the “business” of the Church, not the state; there is a way to progress towards both. Increase the security on the border, care for those already in our country, and revamp the immigration process to allow for greater LEGAL immigration. These are reasonable, incremental steps that could realistically be taken. It also strikes a balance between the political and the pastoral, caring for the greatest number of people concerned. Lastly, it allows the Church to be the vessel of grace and compassion it is supposed to be while avoiding being advocates for illegal activity.

  • digbydolben

    Christopher, the necessary “incremental step” that needs to be taken is to provide for amnesty for the immigrants who have been here “illegally” for the last ten or fifteen years, but who have contributed enormously to our economy and paid various taxes. If folks who feel as you do about so-called “illegal immigration” will agree to that, then the rest of us Catholics who agree with Archbishop Gomez will probably agree to “sealing the border.”

  • skeptic

    The only financial analysis I was able to find concluded that illegals are a net deficit financially and simply cost the US taxpayer….rather than your “contributed enormously”
    after subtracting for prison expense, medical and education expense. I would love to change my mind on this but that would mean you linking me to a study that proves that they are a net asset rather than a net cost…or are you simply guessing in line with your emotions. I’m hoping you actually can point to a study.

  • skeptic

    For example Digby, here from a very neutral and probably the most trusted source in general…the Congressional Budget Office paper on such matters:

    “Recent estimates indicate that annual costs for unauthorized
    immigrants in Colorado were between
    $217 million and $225 million for education, Medicaid,
    and corrections. By comparison, taxes collected
    from unauthorized immigrants at both the state and
    local levels amounted to an estimated $159 million to
    $194 million annually.”

    from: The Impact of Unauthorized
    Immigrants on the Budgets of
    State and Local Governments
    DECEMBER 2007

  • Skeptic:

    Let’s see, so that means unauthorized immigrants cost state and local governments in Colorado between $23M and $66M annually. Is that why the state’s $18.2G (G=”Giga”=billion) annual budget has a $1.5G shortfall?

    It seems to me unreasonable to lay the fault for government budget woes at the feet of people who are working very hard for very little pay, and whose impact on the State’s budget is barely noticeable. The simple calculation also reduces people to “good little taxpayers” as if that were all we/they are.

    A more honest appraisal should take into account their contributions in other areas. Such a list would include their economic stimulus to the local economy, work done and jobs fulfilled that “native” workers would rather not do, enhancement of cultural diversity and their contributions to the spiritual life of the Church.

  • digbydolben

    enhancement of cultural diversity and their contributions to the spiritual life of the Church.

    EXACTLY! Excuse me, skeptic, but I am not the least bit interested in their MONETARY “contribution”; instead, I was referring to their VALUE system and their SPIRITUALITY, as well as to their “traditional family values”–which are a lot more in line with ROMAN CATHOLIC “family values” than with, say, the so-called “family values” of the Palins and the Levi Johnsons, et. al.

  • skeptic

    Frank M.
    But you will admit that Colorado people should decide if they want that added expense or would they rather spend that money on the indigent mentally ill for example. If you are from Colorado, then you should have a voice in where their largesse goes but if not, you do have a voice in your state’s situation. Coloradans should be the one to decide for themselves. I think you would agree with that.
    It’s simply math. If a state is giving largesse to this group, they are not giving it to this group and they must admit who is the losing group.
    Years ago I did social work within Manhattan and learned there that the indigent mentally ill are given just about enough money to live in dangerous neighborhoods and often within buildings being used for brothels. As you can imagine, none of them are getting the therapy Freud envisioned for the truly mentally ill which is multiple days a week.
    Once you support your favored group within your state’s budget, you would be more honest to look into the group who is getting very little largesse.
    In my area it is always the mentally ill and there simply is no great Church effort to assuage that because it is not a NY Times/media issue.
    That is why you see people living on the street and shouting to themselves and I don’t even know if a religious order has ever simply been consecrated to that group.
    If one group is helped, there is probably another group being unhelped unless the state is very low population wise.

  • Dave Greiner and Christopher believe in right-wing myths. Looks like Gomez hit the right nerve.

  • Another Kevin

    Gomez will be a great shepherd and teacher for the LA diocese and beyond. The bible teaches us that disciples muttered to themselves in John 6:60 about hard teachings and God then revealed in John 6:66 that many left over such a hard teaching. As Michael points out, it is when a hard teaching comes and strikes the right nerve we need to pay extra attention and wonder why we are muttering that this teaching is so hard. Our correct response should be to figure out how to accede to the difficult teaching as opposed to ignoring the teaching, finding loopholes or trying to prove the bishops wrong. We need to be thinking with the church and its body of teaching on all issues including immigration, homosexuality, divorce, contraception and health care. Not just the ones that mirror our politics.

  • Hammer

    God bless the Catholic Church for looking after Jesus’ flock, but at what point do we draw the line between church and state? Catholic leaders would tell us that illegal immigrants are not “aliens” to us and that we should welcome them. They choose, in this instance, to essentially disregard the law. Catholic leaders also offer forgiveness to those among us who commit even the worst crimes. By the same standard, shouldn’t we also forgive and set free all murderers?

    I’m not trying to be strident on this. Where is the dividing line?

  • Timothy Bauer

    To all:

    I am a lifelong Catholic who wishes to go over the coadjutor of Los Angeles,
    Jose Gomez comments .

    In the first paragraph-Archbishop says an interesting item. And I quote-“We must
    defend the immigrant if we are to be called Catholic”. Right off the bat some-
    thing misleading is indicated. We should defend the legal immigrant who foll-
    owed the correct procedures/time periods and entered the country lawfully.
    But to say we should defend the immigrant-is that implicit that we defend the
    person who is in the country illegally. We are a country of laws-and it is obvious that if we do not wish to follow the law-then you have anarchy. And
    that is kind of what we have in the immigration debate.

    Keep in mind-millions of people around the world want to enter the U.S. If they follow just procedure they do it legally. If they want to sneak over the border illegally and take advantage of what our country to generously offers that is very very difficult to defend. So right off-respectfully Archbishop
    Gomez starts with a flawed opinion.

    Next he says as bishops and priests we have an obligation to help form the
    peoples consciences. You left out a very key word- to “correctly” help form the
    peoples consciences. It is extremely hard to defend to let persons illegally cross a neighboring country to take advantage of what they have to offer. Which violates the others countries laws. Remember when they asked Jesus-
    above paying tax or not. He held the coin up-and asked them who was on the coin. They said Caesar. Then what was Christs words-he said to pay what is due Caesear, and to pay what is God’s-Gods due. The theologians have con-
    cluded as a citizen you need to abide by the rules of the country you live in if they are reasonable. Let’ s see-a country determines if you sneak over the border and enter illegally they have the right to have you leave. And according to Archbishop Gomez-that would not be true. I gues Archbishop Gomez wants to make his own interprepretation of scripture and just ignore what it actually says. You have to be careful with arrogance like that. Be careful citizens of Los
    Angeles. You may have gone from the frying pan into the fire-going from Cardinal Mahoney to future Cardinal Gomez.

    Timothy Bauer
    Reno, Nevada

  • Christopher

    I’m not sure how Michael could interpret my post as a “belief in right wing myths.” Even if that interpretation of my post was plausible, and I don’t think it is, I don’t think that hitting on my alleged right wing “nerve” equals good theology on Bishop Gomez’s part.

    I understand and appreciate the obligation of more prosperous nations to welcome foreigners that are in search of security and livelihood that may not be available in their country of origin (CCC 2241). Unknowingly, countries that act in such charitable ways are representing some of the best values of Christianity. Additionally, public authorities in the receiving country are bound to protect those whom they receive. However, illegal immigration does not allow a country to RECEIVE the immigrant in a charitable manner, but creates enmity between the two. A legal procedure allows for an immigrant to be received appropriately and protected as a guest and prospective citizen.

    The church has long recognized political authorities to subject the “right to immigrate” to “various juridical conditions.” It also charges those who wish to immigrate with the responsibility to “obey the laws “of the country that receives them (CCC 2241). Respect for the legal process of immigration and the laws of the receiving country cannot be observed only after the immigrant has ILLEGALLY entered the country.

    I would say, in agreement with the Church, that there instances where laws may be contrary to reason and therefore become unjust. However, citizens may not just choose to ignore laws on impulse; they may only do it “defend their rights against an abuse of authority” (GS 74,5). The Church has already established that it is within a nation’s right to establish immigration laws; it is not an abuse of authority. Therefore, since it is not an abuse of authority, citizens are “bound in conscience to obey” (GS 74, 4).

    So my perspective on the immigration issue is clearly anchored in the teachings of the magisterium, not in “right wing” ideology.

  • grega

    LOL Skeptic, I bet most illegal mexican workers have paid more in US social security tax and income tax than for example the average struggling Blogger i.e.Christopher.
    And yes as Digby pointed out there is a decent chance that these Catholics run circles in terms of family value and actually practicing our religion,even around the “holier than” apologetic catholic mouthpieces that dominate the catholic part of the web.
    Of course one should not be naive – of course poor Mexicans with not many great economic upsides locally will attempt to improve their economic situation and are willing to take some risks and gamble when they illegally embark on rather harrowing trips to the North – that is what we all in essence do throughout our lives – that is what our ancestors did – people will always attempt to find ways around borders and obsticales to feed the family.

    I am kind of surprised that not more conservative leaning folks here in the US gravitate to business/economic solution for illegal immigration.
    Why not revisit NAFTA? This issue can only be mitigated if the economic upside for both sides will be recognized and strengthened. It is not easy – has it ever been – and you can bet in a generation or two when Americans with pride do look at Mexicans as essential productive industrious partners in the great northern american trade union other issues will dominate the hearts and minds of our childrens children.
    For now we should be proud that we live in a country that indeed allows the kids of illegal immigrants to receive education, shelter and medical care.
    And yes the catholic church is very much part of this.

  • Christopher

    Really unfortunate. I only started blogging about three weeks ago in search of intellectual conversation with people representing a variety of view points. I have had some decent success in some places but this thread seems to be spiraling downward.

    After laying out in very systematic fashion my thinking in two posts I’ve been told I believe in “right wing myths” and that I’m an “average struggling blogger.” Neither attempted to address my points nor back up wild claims, like, “I bet most illegal mexican [sic] workers have paid more in US social security tax and income tax…” Grega, you “bet” that is true? Well, heck, that is good enough for me! Let’s formulate policy based on that. If it is true, find a reference for it. You also agree with Digby that there is a “decent chance” that Mexican Catholics have superior family values. Well there is another level of assurance worthy of policy formation. What is that assumption based on? These types of wild accusations are just noise and take away from the real serious issues at hand.

    I respect your right to disagree with my opinions all day, but at least my “opinions” are grounded in something other than “bets” and “decent chances.”

    BTW…not that you have any right to know, but I’m in the 33% tax bracket, which for 2010 means my household income is between $209,250 and $373,650. If there are illegal Mexicans paying more in taxes than me, good on ’em!!

  • grega

    Christopher the comment was meant to be kind of funny but upon reading it again it indeed was foremost silly and uncalled for – please accept my apology.
    I also suspect that you are not the Christopher I ( or Michael) had in mind .
    As a legal immigrant to this country I can assure you that my opinions are just as grounded as yours – but of course they are different and reflect my path in life- you might have noticed that I have a bit more optimistic perspective regarding the issue. Indeed I am convinced that in the grand scheme of things this will work itself out – this country is filled with legal and illegal immigrants – the genius is that after a generation or two they are all deeply feel like ‘Americans’.

  • OK, Christopher, since you’d like to have back and forth, I’ll pick one of yours and respond:

    The Church has already established that it is within a nation s right to establish immigration laws; it is not an abuse of authority.

    The argument isn’t over whether the US can establish and enforce its own immigration law; the argument is over whether the laws and practices as they are currently implemented are just. Note that when I say “laws and practices” I mean not only behavior of federal state and local government but everyone’s behavior, including yours, mine and the behavior of Mexican citizens within the US. It is not hard to demonstrate that what is broadly “within a nation’s right to establish” is not necessarily just. That determination has to stand on its own moral ground.

    I’ll confess to my own prejudice: When I read a post with a number of conclusions diametrically contrary to my Catholic instinct and not solidly supported, I’m inclined to simply dismiss it as a Calvinist/Materialist/Libertarian rant. If what you want is validation of your particular ideas, you’d be better off taking them someplace other than Vox-Nova. If you want intellectual conversation with people representing a variety of viewpoints, you’ll have to take your points slowly. Present them one at a time; support them solidly and even tediously when you’re working toward a conclusion which is off my radar.

  • Regarding tax brackets, contributions by “illegal Mexicans,” the origins of “two cents worth” and who contributes the most: Mark 12:42 and Luke 21:2.

  • Christopher

    @ Grega…thank you for your apology. I wholehearted accept it. Speaking of going back reading posts, I can see that my reply to you was a bit spite-filled and angry. While I stand by the notion that claims need grounding to avoid being just “noise,” my presentation was filled with pride so, I too, am sorry. I think you are right that I am not the “Christopher” you had in mind. This thread is the first time I’ve ever posted on Vox-Nova.

    @ Frank M….I can agree with you that the focus should be on determining the “justness” of the U.S. immigration laws. I don’t think we should focus solely on the fact that a particular law was broken. The practice of violating laws by those coming into the country illegally or by police/immigration officials is equally unsupportable in my opinion, leaving us with the debate on the justness of the laws. However, whatever conclusion are reached, short of completing dissolving the borders, those outside of the U.S. will be required to respect the border or face appropriate consequences. For example, according to the Dept. of Homeland Security, the U.S. naturalizes approximately 1 million new citizens each year. Even if that number was raised to 2 million, 3 million, 10 million, there would still be even more that would desire entry into the U.S. Those who, for a time, remained unnaturalized, would need to be respectful of the U.S. laws. If there is going to be a border, then there will be border laws/restrictions, and those laws will require enforcement. The only way to avoid laws and enforcement is to declare an open border between Mexico and the U.S. The problem with that is that while Mexicans represent the largest demographic naturalized by the U.S., they are not the only ones. Other countries, would soon demand the same privileges and then what are we left with? Open borders for everyone? I really do want to understand what the concrete vision is behind the rallying cries for “justice,” “equality,” and “fairness.”

    As far as what I think a “just law” would be in this case, I would have to say that a “just immigration policy” would be one that did not favor one group over another. The current situation, where political will and resources are lacking to address porous borders, favors those who are willing to break the law while putting those who attempt to enter the country legally at a disadvantage (Mexican and non-Mexican immigrants). Millions of people attempt to play by the rules, cooperating with a burdensome system to become citizens and once they do, the stigma of being “the other” is still applied to them. This is an affront to justice. So, the first step in a just immigration system would be one that secures the borders. That way when someone encounters another that doesn’t necessarily look like them (the big “worry” with the AZ law), they can rest assured that they are in fact bound to one another in the common bond of “citizenship” (we can work on them getting to recognize their universal bond as all God’s children as we go).

    Additionally, a just system would not assume that a hungry person is a terrorist but it wouldn’t also naively assume that every person that looked hungry was destitute or didn’t have evil intent (e.g. drugs, violence, terrorism). It would be a system that minimized wait times while maximizing technological resources to ensure the fastest, safest naturalization method was in place. A just system would also be sensitive to the needs of those already in the country. For example, the catechism exhorts more prosperous countries to welcome the foreigner “to the extent they are able.” America is still lauded as the richest country in the world, but we have a national debt that hit $13 trillion this week with no end in sight. State budgets are in even worse situations (e.g. Arizona spends $2B a year on illegal immigration). I know a lot of things contribute to national and state budgetary woes other than illegal immigration, but the cost of it shouldn’t be summarily dismissed on the desire to expand cultural diversity. A just system would realize that unconditional immigration is not possible and any suggestion for it is not in line with reason.

    I’m getting wordy again so I’ll stop and take your advice to present my ideas slowly.

    With regard to the tax bracket thing…that is what I meant when I said I responded angrily towards Grega; it was uncalled for.