"In recent months and in different parts of the world, we have seen the escalation of strong sentiments against immigrants. These sentiments appear to be mounting in our own country as well. How might our various Lenten practices such as prayer, fasting, and alms giving...relate to the complex reality of immigration, especially in the face of increasing hostility toward immigrants?....
Per the Los Angeles Times, it's the first time 70-year-old Mahony has asked the entire Archdiocese of Los Angeles to mobilize behind a social justice issue. The Cardinal has been Archbishop of Los Angeles for over 20 years, the largest US diocese with 5 million Catholics. Mahony also sent information to all Los Angeles parishes on how to preach, teach and lobby to reform immigration laws.
In December 2005, Cardinal Mahony wrote a stinging letter to President Bush, promising to defy newly-passed House legislation and admonishing, "One could interpret this Bill to suggest that any spiritual and pastoral service given to any person requires proof of legal residence. Are we to stop every person coming to Holy Communion and first ask them to produce proof of legal residence...?
For your reading convenience, I've included the letter here at Catholic Cardinal Mahony Pledges to Defy Proposed US Immigration Law.
Cardinal Mahony has been an outspoken advocate for humane treatment of immigrants since his 1962 ordination as priest. In 1975, he was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to be the chairman of the first California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, mediating between the United Farm Workers, headed by Cesar Chavez, and state growers and ranchers."This Lenten season, join me in committing our Lenten practices to making room for the stranger in our midst, praying for the courage and strength to offer our spiritual and pastoral ministry to all who come to us...," Cardinal Mahony urged as he closed Ash Wednesday services.
UPDATE - In its lead editorial today, the New York Times says of Cardinal Mahony's Lent message: "Cardinal Mahony's declaration of solidarity with illegal immigrants, for whom Lent is every day, is a startling call to civil disobedience, as courageous as it is timely. We hope it forestalls the day when works of mercy become a federal crime."
A few weeks ago, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) presented a new, detailed 300-page proposal to overhaul US immigration laws. The Specter plan calls for a guest-worker program that would temporarily legalize millions of undocumented workers, and their immediate famililes, now living in the US. It also calls for additional new law enforcement and border security measures.
The Specter 2006 plan incorporates many elements of the McCain-Kennedy 2005 immigration overhaul legislation never acted on by the Senate. It would also increase penalties for US employers illegally employing undocumented workers and cause such employers to more thoroughly investigate employees' legal status.
Senator Kennedy sounded a positive note about the Specter immigration bill when he stated "I look forward to working with Senator Specter to enact the realistic immigration reforms we need, so that temporary workers can come here safely, and the 11 million illegal workers already here will have a way to earn permanent residence and citizenship.
I'm optimistic that under Senator Specter's leadership, we can enact responsible reforms consistent with our country's ideals and our heritage as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws."
However, Kevin Appleby, spokesman for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the Baltimore Sun newspaper that the Specter plan could "create a permanent underclass" of foreign workers. "This is against traditional American values," Appleby continues.
The Senate is slated to begin debating reform of US immigration laws and the Specter bill in late March.
For a complete and up-to-date summary of immigration reform proposals, read my article, Pros & Cons of Immigration Reform Proposals.
-- Catholic Cardinal Mahony Pledges to Defy Proposed US Immigration Law
-- Pros & Cons of Immigration Reform Proposals
-- Illegal Immigration Explained: Profits & Poverty, Social Security & Starvation
-- Profile of Cesar Chavez, Champion for Fairness & Dignity for Migrant Workers