a forum on international immigration, Archbishop Jose Gomez of San
Antonio said the United States is a country built on immigration and
that Christians should respond to this challenge in accord with the
teaching of Christ: I was a stranger and you welcomed me.
During the forum, which was organized by Mexico’s Secretariat for Foreign Relations and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Archbishop Gomez noted the economic, social and cultural contributions of immigrants to their new countries.
In the case of the United States, the archbishop said according to the 2002 census, Hispanic immigrants number more than 37 million and represent 13.3% of the US population. Of these, 66.9% are from Mexico; 14.3% are from Central and South America; 8.6% are from Puerto Rico; 3.7% from Cuba; and the remaining 6.5% from other Hispanic countries, including Spain.
Emphasizing that his objective was to present a pastoral perspective, Archbishop Gomez recalled that the North American identity has been definitively marked by the phenomenon of immigration. Nevertheless, he warned that “today there is a more articulated, more organic, perhaps more ‘politically correct’ but more intellectually and politically sophisticated ideological resistance (on the part of natives).”
“The most significant expression of this prejudice is perhaps the book ‘Who We Are’ by Samuel P. Huntington,” which Archbishop Gomez said carries great weight among “the intellectual higher-ups of American political parties,” and which claims that Hispanics, “if they maintain their identity and continuing coming in the same numbers, ‘will destroy’ the achievements of the United States, which are unique in the world in terms of liberty and well being.”
Archbishop Gomez said he was saddened that the issue is dividing Catholics in the US. However, he recalled that the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “the more prosperous nations have the duty to welcome, as much as possible, the foreigner who seeks security and a means of living that he is unable to find in his country of origin.”
With respect to illegal immigrants, Archbishop Gomez said granting them legal status would bring economic benefits to the United States, as well as affirm the moral reserve that Hispanics represent for the country. He also argued it “would help to bring greater development and stability in Latin America.”
He explained that such steps would not be the end, but only the beginning of the solution to the problem. “It is necessary to harmonize immigration with the legitimate regulation which governments establish regarding the arrival of foreigners,” he added.
Regarding the role of Catholics, Archbishop Gomez said, “We must have the wisdom and the strength to listen to the call of God to live as brothers and sisters and to build a better world.”