Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City on Wednesday spoke to residents of southern Utah on the topic of immigration, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
Utah’s Washington County has seen a 160 percent population increase since 1990 to more than 126,000 people. The population of St. George, the county seat, has increased 137 percent to 70,000 people. Latinos are estimated to make up 10 percent of the population, and their numbers are rising.
Recent city elections featured a heated immigration debate fueled by tensions with new Latino residents.
Bishop Wester, who heads the committee on migration for the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, addressed the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce on the need to accommodate new immigrants.
"It seems whatever side you're on, pro or con [in the immigration debate]," the bishop said, "we need to bring a sense that we are all children of God." Though recognizing that the ballooning population can strain hospitality, he urged residents to treat all people with dignity. He noted the right of countries to secure their borders, but added that everyone belongs to a larger worldwide community.
Manny Aguilar, a Latino activist in St. George, praised Bishop Wester for emphasizing equality. "Diversity works," Aguilar said. "Equality - no one better, no one less."