The United States’ 33 Hispanic Roman Catholic Bishops released Monday a strongly worded letter suggesting illegal immigrants deserve thanks from Americans and calling for “denunciation of the forces which oppress them.”
The bishops have come out in support of comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants before–as they did again Monday–but the letter uses stronger language and goes further in offering support to undocumented immigrants.
The letter, written to illegal immigrants, was released by San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, the highest ranking Mexican-Americans in the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops.
“In imitation of Jesus and the great prophets, we ought to denounce the forces which oppress them,” the bishops said of illegal immigrants. ” . . . Let us pray and struggle to make it possible for these brothers and sisters of ours to have the same opportunities from which we have benefited .”
The letter is being released on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico and the Continental Americas. On Dec. 12 many immigrants to the United States from Latin America, who are overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, return to churches to reconnect with their heritage.
Garcia-Siller and Gomez, the only Latino archbishops in the U.S. church, are natives of Mexico and U.S. citizens.
But groups that fight illegal immigration said the bishops are placing the interests of their U.S. parishioners second.
“The reason that we have immigration laws is because they are there to protect the interests of the American people,” said Ira Mehlman, communications director of the group Federation for American Immigration Reform.
“What the bishops are saying, essentially, is that other people are going to have to sacrifice their jobs, their children’s educational opportunities . . . because the Catholic Church is placing the interests of illegal immigrants ahead of those who are legitimately here in the United States.”
“The Catholic Church has seen immigration as a recruiting tool,” Mehlman said. “That is not a legitimate interest of American immigration policy.”