'We're talking about souls, not statistics'
By Adelaide Mena
Photo: Archbishop José Gómez of Los Angeles. (Credit: Daniel Ibanez / CNA)
In recent months, national debates over immigration and deportation have reached a fever pitch in the wake of President Trump's election.
But for Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, both Catholic principles and the history of America as a home to people from a variety of backgrounds means that the immigration debate has higher stakes than just law enforcement or national sovereignty.
“For me, and for the Catholic Church in this country, immigration is about people. It is about families,” the archbishop said in a March 23 talk at the Catholic University of America.
“We are talking about souls, not statistics.”
Nearly one million of the immigrants who live within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles are undocumented.
Archbishop Gomez argued that this issue of large numbers of undocumented persons is something his adopted country desperately needs to address, not only for immigrants and their families, but for America as a whole.
“Everybody right now knows that our immigration system is totally broken and needs to be fixed,” the archbishop said. However, while the United States has a right to secure its borders and enforce its laws, it also has to take responsibility for creating and benefiting from the situation that led more than 11 million people to come to the country without documentation, he said.
“For many years our country did not enforce its immigration laws,” Archbishop Gomez said. “Why not? Because American businesses were demanding 'cheap' labor. So government officials looked the other way.”
“Business is to blame. Government is to blame,” Archbishop Gomez said. “And you and I – we have responsibility, too. We 'benefit' and depend every day on an economy that is built on the backs of undocumented workers.”
He noted that while undocumented persons may be in violation of the law, “we aren’t putting business owners in jail or punishing government workers who didn’t do their job.”
While some punishment, such as community service or other requirements to stay in the United States, may be appropriate, he said, it is unfair to the families of nearly 11 million people to deport people with families – some of whom have been here for years.