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.
“Most 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,” he said.
“They 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.”
Archbishop Gomez made his remarks at the Knight of Columbus' 129th annual convention, this year held in downtown Denver, Colo. from Aug. 2-4.
“Many of you are fathers or mothers,” he told members of the order. “So the question to have to ask yourselves is this: What wouldn’t you do to provide for your loved ones? To feed hungry mouths? To give your children a better future?”
“Our perspective on this issue will change if you begin to see these 'illegals' for who they really are – mothers and fathers, sons and daughters – not much different from yourselves.”
The archbishop said that if everyone in North America traced their genealogies, it would “lead us out beyond our borders to some foreign land where each of our ancestors originally came from.”
“In my personal case, the first members of my family came to what now is Texas in 1805,” he noted.
Archbishop Gomez underscored that our “inheritance” as American citizens comes “to us now as a gift and as a duty,” which means that we must have “empathy for this new generation of immigrants.”
“For Christians, empathy means seeing Jesus Christ in every person and especially in the poor and the vulnerable,” he added. “And we need to remember, my friends: Jesus was uncompromising on this point.”
“In 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.”
The Los Angeles archbishop noted that the immigrants he encounters every day in his diocese “are people who are not afraid of hard work or sacrifice.”
“They are people who have courage and the other virtues – and who value God, family and community.”
He also noted that almost 70 percent of Hispanics in the U.S. are Catholics.
“We are called to see all men and women as our brothers and sisters in Christ – but especially those who share in the one Body of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.”
Archbishop Gomez said that this “is why I believe comprehensive immigration reform offers us a special moment as a nation – and as a Church.”
He emphasized that immigration “is not a problem but an opportunity.”
“As immigrants have in every generation, this new generation of immigrants promises to make us a stronger, more virtuous and prosperous America,” he said.