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Archbishop Gomez: Cruel Vindictive Immigration Laws Undermine Rule of Law

JEFFERSON CITY, MO. On October 8, 2008 the Catholic News Agency reported that San Antonio Archbishop José H. Gomez, the senior Hispanic member of the United States’ Catholic hierarchy, called for a moratorium on deportations, federal work site raids, and new anti-immigration legislation.

Addressing a rally at the Missouri State Capitol, Archbishop Gomez said he believed immigration to be “the great civil rights test of our generation”:

“The immigration dispute is bad for the souls of Americans: There is too much anger. Too much resentment. Too much fear. Too much hate. It’s eating people up. And it’s just no good for people to be consumed by fear and hate. It’s no good for their souls. and it’s no good for our country.”

The Archbishop made reference to the hundreds of “anti-immigrant laws” enacted in states in the past two years, calling some “so clearly vindictive, so obviously meant to injure and intimidate, that I worry that the effect will be to diminish respect for the rule of law.”

“We need to find a way to stop lashing out at the problem and to start making sensible policy,” he said in his keynote address to the annual assembly of the Missouri Catholic Conference. This is a national crisis and it calls for national leadership.”

The Archbishop said legal reforms are necessary. “The law should not be used to scare people, to invade their homes and work-sites, to break up families. The deportations of immigrants, he charged, are “breaking up families” and thus “leaving wives without husbands, children without parents. … As we all know, a policy that breaks families apart can only lead to greater sufferings and social problems.”

Deportation is a Punishment Disproportionate to the Crime

Saying those in the U. S. illegally can’t expect to escape punishment, but seeing deportation as a punishment “disproportionate to the crime,” he endorsed “intensive, long-term community service” as a far more constructive solution. “This would build communities rather than tear them apart. And it would serve to better integrate the immigrants into the social and moral fabric of America.”

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XIII, No. 6, November-December 2008.