Archbishop Gomez calls for moratorium on deportations
Archbishop Gomez calls for moratorium on deportations, new anti-immigration laws, raids, until after elections
JEFFERON CITY, Missouri –– The senior Hispanic member of the nation’s Catholic hierarchy has called for a moratorium on deportations, federal work-site raids, and new anti-immigration legislation until after the upcoming elections.
“We need to find a way to stop lashing out at the problem and to start making sensible policy,” Archbishop José H. Gomez of San Antonio told Catholic public policy officials during a rally at the Missouri State Capitol.
“This is a national crisis and it calls for national leadership,” he added. “I understand that the presidential candidates don’t want to touch this issue before the election. Nor does Congress after the bitter failure of the 2007 immigration bill. But this is the hard work of democracy. As soon as this election is over and a new government sworn in, we need to insist that our leaders roll up their sleeves and get to work on comprehensive immigration reform.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, some 200 new anti-immigration laws have been passed in 40 states in 2008. In 2007, the number was comparable, with some 240 new laws passed in 46 states.
In a keynote address to the annual assembly of the Missouri Catholic Conference, Archbishop Gomez questioned the effectiveness and the intentions behind many of these measures.
“The law should not be used to scare people, to invade their homes and work-sites, to break up families,” he said. “From a practical standpoint, I don’t see how these measures are solving any problems. Instead, they’re creating new ones.”
In a wide-ranging 35-minute address on Catholic principles and teaching on immigration, Archbishop Gomez also called for halting the deportations of illegal immigrants. Those found to be in the country illegally should be sentenced instead to “intensive, long-term community service.”
“What’s most troubling to me as a pastor is that these deportations are breaking up families,” Archbishop Gomez said. “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.”
“We have to insist that those who come to our country respect our laws,” the archbishop added. “If they are here illegally, they can’t expect to escape punishment. But I would suggest that intensive, long-term community service would be a far more constructive solution than deportation. 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.”
Archbishop Gomez, who is the head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Cultural Diversity and a member of Pope Benedict XVI’s special Pontifical Commission on the Church in Latin America, called immigration “the greatest civil rights test of our generation.”