Writing in Spanish and English, 33 Catholic bishops of the US released a frank "letter to immigrants" suggesting illegal immigrants deserve thanks from Americans, while calling for a "denunciation of the forces which oppress them."
The bishops, who the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops identified as 'Hispanic/Latino', support comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, a position which they reiterate in the letter. In it, they offer further support to illegal immigrants - the vast majority of whom come from Mexico. The letter was released by San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, the highest ranking Mexican-Americans in the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops. Archbishop Gomez and Archbishop Garcia-Siller are U.S. citizens born in Mexico, while the former is a member of Opus Dei. The rest of the bishops publishing the letter are U.S.-born.
"We are well aware of the great sacrifice you make for your families' well being," they bishops wrote, adding "Despite your contributions to the well-being of our country, instead of receiving our thanks, you are often treated as criminals because you have violated current immigration laws." "In your suffering," Archbishop Garcia-Siller said, "we see the face of Jesus Christ." The bishops vow to continue aiding undocumented immigrants even without any change in the currently Byzantine immigration law.
In above photo, Archbishop Garcia-Siller speaks to the press.
Referring to the rhetoric on the part of politicians and groups concerned about border security, the bishops wrote "The economic crisis has had an impact on the entire U.S. community. Regretfully, some in reaction to this environment of uncertainty show disdain for immigrants and even blame them for the crisis. We will not find a solution to our problems by sowing hatred. We will find the solution by sowing a sense of solidarity among all workers and co-workers -- immigrants and citizens -- who live together in the United States."
The letter was released on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12, when Catholics commemorate the apparition of the Virgin Mary to an Aztec man in the early 1500s that paved the way for further conversions to the Catholic faith following the brutal Spanish conquest. On that day, immigrants with Latin American origins attend Mass.
Organizations that oppose illegal immigration were quick to react, For example, Ira Mehlman, of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said "The reason that we have immigration laws is because they are there to protect the interests of the American people." According to Reuters, Mehlman asserted, "What the Bishops are saying, essentially, is that other people are going to have to sacrifice their jobs, their children's educational opportunities ... because the Catholic Church is placing the interests of illegal immigrants ahead of those who are legitimately here in the United States." Mehlman said that the bishops see immigration as a recruiting tool. The suggestion that Americans should thank illegal immigrants is particularly offensive, said Mehlman.
In the letter, the bishops pledge that they will "continue to advocate on behalf of global economic justice, so our brothers and sisters can find employment opportunities in their countries of origin that offer a living wage, and allow them to live with dignity." "Any new immigration law should include a program for worker visas that respects the immigrants' human rights, provides for their basic needs and ensures that they enter our country and work in a safe and orderly manner," says the letter.