.- Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles said on Aug. 3 that most illegal immigrants are forced to leave their homeland in order to provide a better life for their families.
âMost of the men and women who are here illegally have traveled hundreds even thousands of miles. They have left everything behind, risked their safety and even their lives,â he said.
âThey did this, not for their own comfort or selfish needs. They did this to feed their loved ones. To be good mothers and fathers. To be loving sons and daughters.â
Archbishop Gomez made his remarks at the Knight of Columbus' 129th annual convention, this year held in downtown Denver, Colo. from Aug. 2-4.
âMany of you are fathers or mothers,â he told members of the order. âSo the question to have to ask yourselves is this: What wouldnât you do to provide for your loved ones? To feed hungry mouths? To give your children a better future?â
âOur perspective on this issue will change if you begin to see these 'illegals' for who they really are â mothers and fathers, sons and daughters â not much different from yourselves.â
The archbishop said that if everyone in North America traced their genealogies, it would âlead us out beyond our borders to some foreign land where each of our ancestors originally came from.â
âIn my personal case, the first members of my family came to what now is Texas in 1805,â he noted.
Archbishop Gomez underscored that our âinheritanceâ as American citizens comes âto us now as a gift and as a duty,â which means that we must have âempathy for this new generation of immigrants.â
âFor Christians, empathy means seeing Jesus Christ in every person and especially in the poor and the vulnerable,â he added. âAnd we need to remember, my friends: Jesus was uncompromising on this point.â
âIn the evening of our lives, he told us, our love for God will be judged by our love for him in the person of the least among us. This includes, he said, the immigrant or the stranger.â
The Los Angeles archbishop noted that the immigrants he encounters every day in his diocese âare people who are not afraid of hard work or sacrifice.â
âThey are people who have courage and the other virtues â and who value God, family and community.â
He also noted that almost 70 percent of Hispanics in the U.S. are Catholics.
âWe are called to see all men and women as our brothers and sisters in Christ â but especially those who share in the one Body of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.â
Archbishop Gomez said that this âis why I believe comprehensive immigration reform offers us a special moment as a nation â and as a Church.â
He emphasized that immigration âis not a problem but an opportunity.â
âAs immigrants have in every generation, this new generation of immigrants promises to make us a stronger, more virtuous and prosperous America,â he said.