Bishop hopeful about U.S. immigration policy reform regarding Mexican workers

Bishop José H. Gomez is making an appeal to U.S. Catholics to take an active role in the months ahead in the debate on U.S. immigration policy reform, which includes a new initiative that will favor Mexican immigrants.

“U.S. Catholics, who share a common faith with most of Latin America, need to take an active leadership role in the debate,” the Auxiliary Bishop of Denver says in his opinion editorial that will appear in the Feb. 1 issue of Our Sunday Visitor.

President George W. Bush’s announcement of the new U.S. immigration initiative during his state of the union address was received at first with skepticism and then with satisfaction and hope by the Mexican people, says Bishop Gomez.

In his comment, Bishop Gomez points out the important economic relationship between Mexico and the U.S., as well as the hardships undocumented workers from Mexico face when working here.

The Mexican-born bishop credits Bush for acknowledging that the U.S. economy depends on the labor of these undocumented workers from Mexico, and for recognizing that “undocumented workers have a right to be treated with basic humanity and justice.”

“Undocumented workers do the jobs Americans don’t want,” says the bishop. “There’s a special kind of hypocrisy involved when U.S. employers take advantage of undocumented workers by relying on their labor, paying them substandard wages, denying them routine legal protections – and then blaming them for coming to the United States ‘illegally’,” and accusing them of stealing American jobs, he says.

“We can’t simultaneously call for free trade in our hemisphere and economic development in Latin America, and then bolt our doors shut or mistreat those immigrant workers who do come,” he points out.

Bishop Gomez is hopeful about the initiative, but says it is “short on specifics” at this point.

“It may not go far enough and surely faces a tough fight in Congress,” he said. “But its symbolic value is huge.”

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