As Supreme Court takes up immigration case, LA archbishop weighs in

Abp Jose Gomez at the Pontifical North American College on May 2 2015 Credit Daniel Ibanez CNA 5 2 15 Abp. Jose Gomez at the Pontifical North American College on May 2 2015. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on an immigration enforcement case will affect many immigrants in the U.S., and the Los Angeles archbishop says the court should rule on the side of humanity.

"I cannot speak to the constitutional questions in this case. I speak as a pastor. And as a pastor, I know that the situation is unjust and intolerable for millions of people who are forced to live in the shadows of our great country," Archbishop Jose Gomez said Jan. 19.

"People do not cease to be our brothers and sisters because they have an irregular immigration status. No matter how they got here, no matter how frustrated we are with our government, we cannot lose sight of their humanity – without losing our own."

The Supreme Court will rule on the State of Texas' challenge to President Obama's immigration program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. Under the program, as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants who are the parents of citizens or lawful permanent residents could apply for work permits and avoid deportation.

The program was set up on the president's own initiative without congressional approval.

The State of Texas, acting on behalf of 26 states, challenged the program's constitutionality and has won every legal challenge so far, the Associated Press reports. In November the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the states.

Texas had asked the Supreme Court not to hear the case. However, the court's justices have added their own questions to the case about whether the president had violated his obligations to enforce the nation's laws, the New York Times reports.

U.S. solicitor general Donald Verrilli Jr. said ending the program would force millions of people "to continue to work off the books, without the option of lawful employment to provide for their families."

He said the program will discourage illegal hiring that depresses wages for American workers.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that the Supreme Court's decision to hear the case shows that it recognizes the importance of the constitutional concept of the separation of powers.

The Obama administration had challenged Texas' legal standing to challenge the program. However, lower courts have said Texas has standing because it would be responsible for subsidizing costs like drivers licenses and work permits for 500,000 people if the program stands.

Arguments in the case will take place in April. The Supreme Court will rule on the case in June.

An estimated 11 million people are in the United States illegally.

Archbishop Gomez said the Supreme Court may be "our last best hope to restore humanity to our immigration policy," given lawmakers' inaction.

"Every day in our parishes and schools and neighborhoods, we see the rising human toll of our failure to enact comprehensive immigration reform, especially on families and children," he said. The president's executive actions are a temporary solution, but one that provides "a measure of mercy."

The Obama administration's enforcement actions have focused on criminals, people who are threats to national security or public safety, and people who have recently entered the country.

Under President Obama, a record high 409,000 people were deported in 2012. However, in the last fiscal year about 235,000 people were deported, the smallest number since 2006.

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Archbishop Gomez said that many of those deported are parents forced to leave behind their spouses and children.

"Millions more are living in constant fear that they too might be rounded up for deportation, that one day without warning they won't be coming home for dinner and may never see their families again," he said.

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