LOS ANGELES—The Los Angeles Archdiocese will ignore a proposed federal law that would require churches to ask immigrants for residency documents before administering help, Cardinal Roger Mahony said Wednesday.
“The church is not in a position of negotiating the spiritual and the corporal works of mercy,” Mahony said during a Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels marking the start of the 40-day season of Lent.
“We must be able to minister to people, regardless of how they got here,” he said.
An immigration bill recently passed by the House of Representatives includes a provision requiring churches and other social organizations to ask immigrants for legal documentation before providing them assistance. Institutions that fail to comply could be penalized.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa praised Mahony’s comments and called the federal plan “incredulous.”
“I can tell you that the cardinal, I think, is right is saying that the church should not be in the business of enforcing our immigration laws,” Villaraigosa said Wednesday. “That’s a federal responsibility.
“The idea that the church would deny services to the homeless, that the Catholic church would deny services to families who are hungry because of their immigration status is absolutely incredulous,” he said. “I certainly understand his sentiments.”
Villaraigosa said he has not researched what ramifications such a law would have on city workers.
“In our situation, if the federal government required us to do something because the law of the land dictates that . . . you got to enforce the law,” Villaraigosa said. “But I can tell you that my understanding is that this legislation will not pass in the Senate.”
Councilman Dennis Zine, a Catholic, released a statement today saying he supported Mahony’s comments.
“I agree with Cardinal Mahoney that the patchwork of legislation of the past is unrealistic in moving forward with meaningful reform of the immigration policies of this country,” said Zine, who chairs the National League of Cities’ Immigration Task Force. “We need to come up with a program that works.”