Archbishop Gomez emphasizes dignity of immigrants on eve of inauguration

By J.D. Long-Garcia

ANGELES (CNS) — On the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration as U.S. president, Los
Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez renewed the call to recognize the humanity of
immigrants at a Vatican-sponsored migration conference at the University of
California in Los Angeles.

do not cease to be human — they do not cease to be our brothers and sisters —
just because they have an irregular immigration status,” the archbishop said in
a keynote address closing the “Workshop on Humanitarianism and Mass Migration”
Jan. 19. “They are children of God and they are brothers and sisters. Our

Jan. 18-19 conference — sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the
Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the Ross Institute of New York, and the
Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA — brought
together leading scientists, policymakers and philanthropists.

fundamental crisis that forced displacement and mass migration are generating
represents the most significant concern of all men and women of good faith,”
said Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, a UCLA professor who specializes on migration. “Our
work was inspired by so many of our colleagues here today.”

and Msgr. Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, a professor at Maria Santissima Assunta Free
University in Rome, served as the conference chairs. The city of Los Angeles,
home to millions of immigrants, was an appropriate location to host the
dialogue, Suarez-Orozco said when introducing Archbishop Gomez.

— in this city and in immigrant neighborhoods all across this country — there
is a lot of fear, a lot of uncertainty and a lot of anger,” the archbishop
said. “Because our new president campaigned with harsh rhetoric about
foreigners and sweeping promises to deport millions of undocumented

Angeles is home to an estimated 1 million immigrants in the country without
legal permission, he said. The archbishop also said that politics is not the

know that both political parties are exploiting the immigration issue for their
own purposes,” he said. “That is sad to say, but it is true. And it has been
happening for years.”

expressing concerns about the incoming president, Archbishop Gomez also noted
that President Barack Obama had deported more immigrants than any
administration in U.S. history — 2.5 million over the past eight years.

vast majority of those that we are deporting are not violent criminals,” he
said. “In fact, up to one-quarter are mothers and fathers that our government
is seizing and removing from ordinary households. Nobody talks about this, but
we see it every day here in L.A. When the government comes to deport people, they are taking away some little girl’s dad, some little boy’s mom.”

estimated 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally arrived over the past 20 years, the archbishop noted. The government at every level failed to
enforce immigration laws, he said.

of these immigrants have been in the country for at least 10 years, he said,
and nearly half live with a spouse and children. The reason, he said, is that
government has failed to act. That’s despite a broad public consensus for
“compassionate and reasonable” solutions to the broken immigration system.

you look into the eyes of a child whose parent has been deported — and I have
done that more than I want to — you realize how inadequate our politics are,”
said the archbishop, who noted he came to the U.S. as an immigrant from Monterrey, Mexico, and has been a naturalized U.S. citizen for more than 25 years.

the theme of the workshop, Archbishop Gomez said immigration is part of a
bigger challenge of globalization, de-industrialization and new economic

not a matter of building walls. That won’t solve anything,” the archbishop

a question-and-answer period, he underscored that it is still unclear what the
Trump administration will do about immigration. In the meantime, dioceses
throughout the country are finding ways to protect immigrants while seeking to
dialogue with the new administration. In Los Angeles, ongoing efforts have
educated immigrants in the U.S. without documents about their rights when
facing deportation.

the entire community needs to be educated, the archbishop said, applauding
workshop participants for efforts to deepen understanding of the emerging,
multicultural reality worldwide.

Crul, a professor at Free University in Amsterdam who gave a presentation on
the education of refugee children during the conference, said the changing
demographics in the United States are part of a global phenomenon.

own home city, the people of Dutch descent are a minority,” he said. “Only one
in three children in Amsterdam is of Dutch descent.”

which has experience an influx of immigrants and refugees, can provide insights
to the U.S., he said. European nations have tried various approaches with various
degrees of success.

real solution to the populist movement is that we have to adapt the system so
that we have good outcomes for everybody,” Crul said. “People (dropping out of
school), being unemployed — that is not a good outcome.”

also said the election in the United States demonstrated that academia needs to
do a better job explaining social trends. Academic discourse has not convinced
the general public, he said.

who voted for Trump, Crul said, have many things in common with those who did

family has the same concerns,” he said. “They want safety. They want their
children to do well in school. So we have to find common ground. That is
difficult because we naturally want to draw back into our own bubble when we
encounter those with other opinions. But the real change will happen when we
find where we align.”

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is editor-in-chief of Angelus News, the multimedia platform of the Archdiocese
of Los Angeles.


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