Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Ronald Brownstein reported recently on encouraging polling results about what steps our nation should take with the 11 million undocumented peoples living in our midst:

"As the debate over immigration continues to roil the Republican presidential field, a substantial majority of Americans say they would prefer to allow some or all illegal immigrants to remain in the United States, the latest United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll has found."

"When asked what should be done with the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, just 25 percent of those polled said that they should all be deported “no matter how long they have been in the U.S.”

"Another 28 percent of those surveyed said that all illegal immigrants should be allowed “to stay, provided they have broken no other laws and commit to learning English and U.S. history.”

"The largest group, at 39 percent, said that the United States should “deport some, but allow those who have been here for many years and have broken no other laws to stay here legally.”

I am greatly encouraged by these results since some 67% of Americans polled favor some form of path to legal residency for the 11 million. Only 25% believe that all should be found and deported--an impossible task, of course.

These poll numbers reflect the great American spirit, an appreciation of the contributions of all immigrants down through the centuries here, and a realization that so many of our recent immigrants share our values and want to work hard for their families and for the country.

Immigration reform has now surfaced far more visibly in the past two months with the Presidential election campaigns underway. The presence of 11 million people living in the shadows of our society and contributing to our society cannot be ignored--not morally, ethically, or politically.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal from the draconian Arizona immigration law, and hopefully, its decision will help bring more clarity to the discussion in the coming months.

All of us need to press our members of the U.S. Congress to discuss this issue, and to challenge them to respect and work for the position of the 67% majority who favor an earned path towards legal residency.

Let's keep our discussion focused upon the human dignity of our immigrant brothers and sisters, their hard work for their families and all of us, and for our need for workers in so many employment opportunities as the economy improves and as Baby Boomers retire.

Our position as Catholics is based on God's mandates to Moses, as well as the urging by Jesus Christ to see him in all peoples, especially in the strangers in our midst.

Let's keep up our prayers and broad efforts to help influence the current public discussion around this issue, and let's thank the 67% for their enlightened reasoning.

[The United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from Dec. 1 to 4; it interviewed 1,008 adults by landline and cell phone. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.]

Sunday, October 23, 2011


As election year campaigns ramp up again, we are already hearing the mounting attacks against the immigrant peoples living in our midst. In our rush to find scapegoats for all that ails our country we so quickly blame the current wave of immigrants.

As candidates for President debate various national issues it’s amazing that one of the new electability standard is whether an unauthorized worker was ever on one’s property doing any kind of work. It seems that being untouched by an immigrant in any way is the new litmus test to serve in elected office.

But why did the current wave of immigrants come here? For the same reasons every group of immigrants came: to find a better life for themselves and their families, to become better educated, and to contribute to making the American dream come true for everyone. We have 11 million unauthorized immigrants for one reason: we need them to do all of the monotonous, dirty, and hard work that the rest of us don’t want to do, regardless of the salary.

As one Alabama sweet potato farmer said recently, “If you all stop eating, the immigrants will leave.” He and countless others have tried to attract documented people to do the dirty, long, and difficult work in the fields. And as this farmer pointed out, “They last about an hour, sometimes two hours. Then they just leave."

Every time our national economy is increasing and unemployment falls down to 5% or less, we need every immigrant to take those jobs which are often behind-the-scenes, but essential to make our country run. Agriculture, the poultry and meat industries, hotels and motels, construction, clothing makers, restaurants, tourism, home care workers—these are just a few places where the millions of workers will be found.

Just look back a few years and you’ll find the same pattern over and over:immigrants come when they are needed, and once jobs are scarce, we blame them and try to distance ourselves from them. But that’s an impossible task. It would be far more helpful to our national discussion if we could set aside the harsh rhetoric blaming immigrants, and begin to address this issue in a rational and civil way.

You and I need and use the labor and services our unauthorized immigrants do day after day. These are real people with names and faces. Our brothers and sisters are not “those people” in some global and demeaning fashion.

I long to hear candidates for elected office buck the trend and point to our immigrant roots and history. Please remind us that we have so many unauthorized immigrants because our immigration laws have not balanced our need for workers at the lowest paying jobs with the availability of workers to do those jobs. Our broken immigration system was not caused by the immigrants.

It would be so helpful to our national discussion if candidates for elected office would set aside hurtful rhetoric against immigrants, acknowledge our dependence upon these workers in the lowest paying and more difficult service jobs, and offer ways in which we can bring these people out of the shadows and bring them into the mainstream of our nation’s life.

If we review our history as a nation and recognize the various waves of immigrants who built up our country, and if we look down the road into future years as we witness millions of baby-boomers retiring, we begin to get a better understanding of how today’s immigrants living in our midst without legal documents can be the key to our future labor needs.

I believe deeply that once the average American understands all the parameters of the role of today’s immigrants for our nation, they will open their hearts and minds to them and help find a way to bring dignity and respect to them. I firmly believe this because every poll taken supports this approach. When Americans are asked if they favor massive searches and deportations for all unauthorized immigrants, or whether they favor an earned path to legal residency, the vast majority always choose the earned path to legal residency.

The polls taken by by USA Today, the Pew Research Institute, and the Pacific Institute of Public Policy, even those people who agree with the new strict State laws also believe that it is totally impractical to locate, detain, and deport some 11 million people from our country.

The American spirit of welcome for immigrants seems to trump harsh and unrealistic solutions in dealing with undocumented people here.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law the second half of the California Dream Act. Now undocumented students in California have the right to attend State colleges and universities at in-State tuition rates, and to apply for certain Cal-Grants for tuition assistance.

I commend Assemblyman Gil Cedillo for carrying these two pieces of legislation, and Governor Brown for signing them.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day, we are still left with the same difficult problem: those undocumented students who graduate from California colleges and universiites do not have any legal status, no Social Security number, and no ability to apply for a job anywhere. They are still stranded in the terrible abyss of our broken immigration system.

And what a tragic loss. Those fine young men and women are eager and anxious to get a full education, to become employed, to pay taxes, to help build up our communities and our economy, but they are denied that crucial next step.

Only the U.S. Congress can grant them a path to legal residency after graduation. And apparently no one in Washington DC has any interest or will to even think about such a step: not the House, not the Senate, and not the President.

So, eager and talented young people will continue to be offered up on the altar of anti-immigrant rhetoric, and their hopes and dreams for a better America all but snuffed out.

As a nation we owe these young adults much better. And we owe our nation better. These young people are the hope for the future, and to derail them in their young lives is a national tragedy.

But we don't give up hope, nor do we lessen our efforts. Our broken immigration system needs desperate repair, and in the meantime, millions of people in our country live in fear that somehow they may be questioned about their legal status.

I continue to proclaim a message of hope to all of our immigrant peoples, and to do my part to create coalations of Americans who understand the import role of immigrants in our long history and our future as a nation. We shall win out eventually over the rhetoric of those opposed to our immigrant brothers and sisters.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


That was the advice from an Alabama sweet potato grower in light of the state's tough new immigration law. Farmers and food processors all across Alabama are predicting losses in the many millions of dollars.

The sentiment among Alabama's farmers is summed by by this one grower, making reference to the Hispanic farm workers who have done most of the harvesting in all of the major crops:

“These people will do work that local people won’t do, you know?” said Baldwin County farmer, Joel Sirmon. “They’re hard workers ... don’t cause no problem. We’ve had to advertise for labor, and we’ve got U.S. citizens in here. They work an hour or two, but they can’t do what the migrant workers do.”

Sirmon said many of his workers started leaving at the beginning of September. Now, with the passing of the immigration law, his situation will only get worse.

“We have fifteen in the packing house and nobody showed up this morning, so I don’t know if that’s because of the law or what, you know?” he said.

Many Americans look to simplistic solutions to try to deal with our broken immigration system, but they don't understand the much larger picture. Our country has a dreadful labor inbalance, especially in industries such as agriculture, hotels and motels, restaurants, construction, and many service industries.

Laws such as those passed in Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia aim to eliminate undocumented peoples in a way that demeans their human value and their needed hands and energies to perform jobs that other Americans refuse to take.

The Fresno Bee stated last year in an editorial:

"Some experts predict that the system will always be broken because too many people don't want change -- even if they say they do. Farmers get cheap labor, illegal immigrants get jobs, consumers pay less for services. No one wants to make difficult reforms that would disrupt this balance."

The Alabama sweet potato farmer got it right, but few of us are willing to listen: "If you stop eating, the immigrants will leave." We have gotten used to the relatively low food prices we pay as Americans; low because our food production is subsidized by immigrant workers.

As a nation built generation after generation by immigrants, we need to seek common ground through civil discourse to understand our need for workers in all types of jobs, and to seek fair and workable solutions to meet these needs. Undocumented workers aren't a problem to be fixed by rounding them up and deporting them; they are the backbone of thousands of businesses across the country. They deserve and need our respect, our understanding, and our resolve to fix an inadequate immigration system.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Hardly a day goes by without some new attack upon our immigrant brothers and sisters living and working among us.

Whether it be States such as Arizona or Alabama enacting harsh and focused laws to discourage and to terrify immigrant families by denying their basic human dignity and vast contributions to our society, or, media commentators continuing to blame immigrants for the nation's economic woes, our immigrants are suffering deeply.

Most of our immigrant families are "blended" families, meaning that some members have legal documents and some others do not. Every family is going to take every avenue to stay together—not to be separated by deportation. But that effort is lived out in fear and terror that in an instant a family member will be plucked off the streets and placed in detention.

Immigrant brothers and sisters: Take heart, have courage! Since the 1700s the Catholic Church in this country has welcomed each and every wave of immigrants who have come to our shores. We have stood with you, we have provided spiritual and pastoral care, and we established schools to educate your children. We have seen too many times the prejudice that greeted you, and the denial of dignity and rights which followed.

But do not be afraid. Every successive group of immigrants before you has felt the sting of insult and unwelcome by some in our country. However, your dedication and commitment to our country continue to benefit the nation. More than that, your resolve and sacrifices have helped create the great country in which we all live.

The Bishops of the USA and of Mexico issued a joint Pastoral Letter in early 2003 entitled "Strangers No Longer--Together on the Journey of Hope" to recall the Church's history of spiritual and pastoral outreach to immigrants over the centuries. This latest Letter reaffirms all of the past initiatives taken by the Church, and pledges our continuing efforts over the coming years.

Although it is not my role to speak on behalf of the U.S. Bishops, nonetheless, I do wish to reaffirm my personal commitment to stand and walk with you--all of our immigrants across the country in the spirit of past declarations by the Bishops' Conference. In particular:

+ Families awaiting reunification processes: Do not give up, and do not be afraid; realize that your Church continues to advocate for a family to be united with all its members, as well as to assist you in the process;

+ Parents afraid of workplace raids by ICE: Please maintain your prayerful patience when you leave for work, and thank God when you return home; focus on your family members and be sustained by all the good you are doing for them;

+ Children at home anxiously waiting for your parents to return: Say a prayer each morning for their safe journey to and from work, and thank God when they return to you in the evening; thank them for their hard work for you and for your brothers and sisters;

+Those of you in our midst who do not have jobs: Do not give up; there are many groups in the Church and in our communities dedicated to help you find a job; say a prayer to St. Joseph the Worker, the earthly father of Jesus, to assist you in finding a job;

+Immigrants in process to obtain a green card or to obtain legal residency: Continue to be hopeful, seek the assistance of our many immigrants’ rights groups who can assist you with the legal processes;

+Students in high school and college without proper papers: You are known as our “Dreamer students”, and we have great hopes for your future. Continue with your studies, and explain your own personal journey to those who are working to create a path for you towards legal residency; become involved in groups helping to pass the Dream Act and other legislation to protect you and to give you a future;

+For all immigrants living and working in our midst: Be proud to be living in the United States, and get to know your new country well. Remember that we are a nation of millions of immigrants who came before you. Be inspired by their hard work and sacrifices to help make our nation strong, safe, and hope-filled for your children. Learn English, as well as the positive values of our society. Work hard towards full citizenship, and participate in our many democratic processes—especially voting in all elections.

The Catholic Church is standing and walking with you on your journeys forward. No matter how strident and hateful the words against you, you are not alone. Please count on us; we respect your dignity as brothers and sisters, and we will fight for your basic human rights; we will never abandon you.

Friday, August 19, 2011


The White House has announced new steps to assist "low-priority" offenders, unauthorized immigrants such as the elderly, crime victims, and people who have lived in our country since children--most of them brought here by parents and family at an early age.

There are approximately 300,000 illegal immigrants in various stages of deportation proceedings, and this huge backlog has clogged the immigration legal system. There will be a case-by-case review of all these cases, and the focus will now shift to those who have been found guilty of a serious crime and whose deportation makes sense.

However, to focus upon the elderly and students who have graduated from high school and college serves no valid purpose. Educated immigrants who are now willing and able to enter the labor market, pay taxes, and improve the economy are a great asset to all of us. I am hopeful that many "Dreamers"--students who have graduated from college and/or served in the military--can now register with the immigration department and be given authorization to become employed with their own social security number.

I support the efforts of the White House to put the emphasis where it belongs: the deportation of those who have committed criminal acts while in this country. Those whose only "crime" is to be here without papers need to be considered separately and seen for their value to our country.

Some are claiming that these new procedures amount to "amnesty"--which has become apparently a very negative concept and word. Only those cases will be closed which demonstrate that the unauthorized immigrant has taken positive steps for his/her education and work skills, and that they are now prepared to assume their responsibilities as contributing members of our society.

On July 12 last year I did a blog of the issue of "amnesty," and I invite you to view that blog as well.

I am confident that Americans of good will can understand that the steps being proposed will help our country enormously, while those who have committed crimes here will be deported to their home countries.

Monday, August 8, 2011


As the harvest of our nation's crops continues across the land, once again we are faced with the incongruity of our immigration laws with the availability of workers to perform those jobs.
Nowhere is this felt more acutely than in our vast agricultural industry. Fully mechanized crops such as wheat, corn, and cotton do not present the same challenges.

But all of the hand-harvested crops such as fresh table tomatoes, table grapes, peaches, nectarines, plums, strawberries, and vast numbers of similar crops demand an immediate availability of trained and committed workers to deal with those quick harvest times.
However, the current immigration laws and regulations do not allow for a quick response for qualified workers to perform those tasks.

Efforts to force farmers and growers to use E-Verify are ill-founded. Bryan Little, the director of labor relations for the California Farm Bureau Federation, has pointed out: "There is not another labor force out there for our industry other than the one we have now. And taking that away will create huge problems."

Rep. Lamar Smith [R-Texas] has proposed a bill that presumes that legal American workers are more than ready to take on the onerous jobs done now by illegal immigrants. But farmers and growers maintain that they are caught in the middle: they can't find documented workers willing to pick crops and take care of livestock. Making the farmers and growers use E-Verify would make it impossible to farm.

The present system relies on the H-2A provision to bring workers in from other countries. But the very concept and its past history show vividly how such a program will not work. Manuel Cunha is president of the Nisei Farmers League in Fresno and he points out that "H-2A is a disaster, and it doesn't work for California farmers."

Erik Nicholson, national vice president of the United Farm Workers union, has pointed out that "We need to provide the hundreds of thousands of workers who have been helping to build the agriculture economy with a way to gain legal status."

Once again, in one of the nation's top industries, it has been shown that piecemeal approaches to immigration reform do not work.

What is needed is a system which recognizes our need for special workers and to find a way to assist them to become legalized on a path to citizenship--creating an experienced and committed workforce for the future.

Our current immigration system is broken and cannot fulfill the needs of our country.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Pope Benedict XVI's personal representative to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, died on July 27. Archbishop Sambi had been our Apostolic Nuncio for some six years.

As soon as Archbishop Sambi arrived in our country, he began immediately to know the Church in the United States. He was filled with the love of God and the joy of Risen Life in Jesus Christ. Wherever he went around the country he brought enthusiasm, hope, and a deepened commitment to the Church.

His arrival here in the midst of the horrific clergy sexual abuse scandal showed his qualities of a good shepherd, and how he prayed and worked to bring about healing and reconciliation for all of us in the Church. When so many were discouraged because of the scandal, he brought a message of forgiveness and hope for those who had suffered, as well as a call for the entire Church to make the protection of children our highest priority.

His previous post was as the Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, and he was keenly aware of the importance of the Christians living in the area of the Holy Lands. He made friends with the Jewish people, the Arabs, and the Palestinians in those lands, and his message was always one of healing and reconciliation among those peoples whose lives were shaped by Salvation History, especially the ministry of Jesus Christ in their midst.

Those of us involved in the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher deeply appreciated his understanding of the important place in the world, and he was always supportive of our efforts to assist the peoples there.

All of us in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles are particularly grateful to Archbishop Sambi for his essential role in our Holy Father's appointment of Archbishop Jose H. Gomez to serve as our new Archbishop. We continue to thank God for the presence and the pastoral leadership of Archbishop Gomez in our midst.

Please keep Archbishop Sambi and his family in your prayers, and let us pray that his many virtues and qualities as a pastor will be a model for all of us as continue on our journeys towards the Kingdom of God.

Monday, July 25, 2011


On July 25 Governor Jerry Brown of California signed into law AB 130 [Assemblyman Gil Cedillo] which now permits undocumented college students to access various private financial aid sources to assist them attend college in the state.

This is the first time in the country that undocumented students will be able to apply legally for private tuition grants to enter and remain in college programs.

Keep in mind that this California DREAM Act is aimed at helping those students who were brought to the State as minors 16 or younger, and whose only country of memory is the United States.

But AB 130 still only helps with the simple part of solving the plight of these young men and women. The more important need is to have Congress pass the federal DREAM Act so that these students might also access a legal path to residency and eventually to citizenship. Then, having graduated from a college or university in California, they would be able to get jobs legally, become contributing members of our society, and start paying taxes.

On February 9 of this year, I placed a blog entitled "Tragic Waste of Our Youth and Our Money" showing how we invest about $174,000 educating these young people in high school and college, but when they are now ready to pay taxes and begin returning that investment, we won't allow them.

Hindering undocumented college students is wrong on all counts--morally, socially, and economically. With some 10,000 baby boomers beginning to retire each day across the country, we will need all of our college and university graduates to not only fill those jobs, but to help create new employment opportunities in exciting new fields.

With some 11,000,000 undocumented people living in our country, with many working and living in the shadows and on the edges of our society, we have a moral obligation to enact Federal legislation which ends our national dilemma: how to balance the need for legal workers at all levels of the work force with the availability of workers.

Assemblyman Cedillo has a companion Bill, AB 131, which would allow these same students to apply for certain California tuition assistance programs, such as Cal Grants. That Bill is pending in the legislature.

I understand the views and feelings of those who oppose giving undocumented residents any recognition or assistance. But leaving millions of people in underground employment and in the shadows of society does not strengthen our nation--it weakens it.

The California DREAM Act is a first step in recognizing the potential which our undocumented college students are ready to offer the State. But we now need a structured path whereby they can become legal residents able to contribute fully to the economic and social development of our communities.

Sadly, political polarization has stymied Congress in its efforts to enact desperately needed immigration reform. The Federal focus is only on enforcement--which only misdirects our limited resources to chasing employed people like criminals.

We should be directing our energy helping to bring these people into full legal compliance so that their employment more fully builds up the nation as legal taxpayers.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Today, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, a grand celebration of the Holy Eucharist took place in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome! Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, celebrated the 60th Anniversary of his Ordination to the Priesthood, as well as the Bestowal of the Pallium upon 40 new Archbishops from throughout the world.

Those of us in Los Angeles were particularly blessed since our Archbishop, the Most Reverend Jose H. Gomez, received his Pallium as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Los Angeles. He was accompanied by all of the Auxiliary Bishops, many priests, Religious, and lay men and women.

The Holy Father's homily focused upon the Gospel passage which was proclaimed 60 years ago at his own Ordination: "I no longer call you servants, but friends" (cf. John 15:15). He explained to us: "Friendship is not just about knowing someone, it is above all a communion of the will. It means that my will grows into ever greater conformity with his will. For his will is not something external and foreign to me, something to which I more or less willingly submit or else refuse to submit. No, in friendship, my will grows together with his will, and his will becomes mine: this is how I become truly myself."

This gradual blending of our own will with that of Jesus Christ is a daily task for us as disciples of Jesus, and the fullness of our friendship occurs when we are with Jesus in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Speaking to the new Archbishops, Pope Benedict highlighted three aspects of receiving the Pallium. First, "It may remind us in the first instance of Christ's easy yoke that is laid upon us (cf. Matthew 11:29f). Christ's yoke is identical with friendship."

Second, "Thus it reminds us of the Shepherd who himself became a lamb, out of love for us. It reminds us of Christ, who set out through the mountains and the deserts, in which his lamb, humanity, had strayed. It reminds us of him who took the lamb--humanity--me--upon his shoulders, in order to carry me home."

Third, "Finally the Pallium also means quite concretely the communion of the shepherds of the Church with Peter and with his successors--it means that we must be shepherds for unity and in unity, and that it is only in the unity represented by Peter that we truly lead people to Christ."

I recommend that you pray over the entire homily which can be found at the new Vatican news site: http://www.news.va/

Truly, today June 29, has been a great day of drawing closer to Jesus Christ and to feeling deeply the bonds which unite all of us around the world as members of the Body of Christ!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


About 400 members of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles are en route to Rome for the bestowal of the Pallium upon Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, by Pope Benedict XVI on June 29, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

But what is the Pallium? It is a circular band about 2" wide, worn about the neck and having two pendants--one hanging down in front and one behind. It is worn over the chasuble at Mass. Every February two lambs are blessed each year and their white wool is used to make the Pallium. The wool is presented to the Pope, and Sisters then make the Pallium for the new Archbishops.

Who wears the Pallium? The Pallium is worn by Archbishops who are also Metropolitan Archbishops--they head up a Province of Dioceses. Archbishop Gomez is the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Province of Los Angeles, and he presides over the Archdiocese of Los Angeles directly, and indirectly, over the Dioceses of Monterey, Fresno, San Bernardino, Orange, and San Diego.

Interesting: even though Archbishop Gomez served as the Archbishop of San Antonio and wore the Pallium there, if he is transferred to a different Metropolitan Archdiocese, he is required to receive a new Pallium. The former Pallium is placed in his casket upon his death and Funeral Mass.

The new Palliums are solemnly blessed on the eve of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and are kept in a special silver-gilt container in front of the Main Altar in St. Peter's Basilica.

It is not clear when the bestowal and use of the Pallium began in our Church. However, the first mention of the Pallium being used is in the first half of the 4th century--a long time ago. Pope Marcus, who died in 336, conferred the right to wear the Pallium on the Bishop of Ostia, near Rome. The wearing of the Pallium was more common in the 5th century.

The use of the Pallium among Metropolitan Archbishops did not become general until the 9th century, when the obligation was laid upon all Metropolitans.

The obvious purpose of the Pallium was to link in a special way the Bishop of Rome with all of the Metropolitan Provinces throughout the world. The oath of allegiance to the Holy Father remains an important aspect of this impressive Ceremony.

As early as the 6th century, the Pallium was considered a liturgical vestment to be used only in the Church, and indeed only during Mass.

I received the Pallium on June 29, 1986. Upon my retirement on February 28, 2011, I no longer wear the Pallium. It has been placed in my crypt in the Cathedral, and will be worn over my vestments upon my Funeral Mass and burial.

All of us accompany Archbishop Gomez with prayer and fraternal support as he receives his Pallium on June 29! It is a privilege for so many of us to be in Rome for this wondrous Liturgy which links the Universal Church to the See of Peter in Rome.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


[This very insightful Associated Press article highlights the economic disaster confronting the agriculture industry in our country if meaningful and comprehensive immigration reform is not passed and implemented soon. Many other U.S. industries are faced with the same problems because the orderly supply of workers is not in harmony with the demands for workers.]

By ALICIA A. CALDWELL, Associated Press – June 4, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) — The agriculture industry fears a disaster is on the horizon if the one bit of new immigration policy that Congress seems to agree on becomes law.

A plan to require all American businesses to run their employees through E-Verify, a program that confirms each is legally entitled to work in the U.S., could wreak havoc on an industry where 80 percent of the field workers are illegal immigrants. So could the increased paperwork audits already under way by the Obama administration.

"We are headed toward a train wreck," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat whose district includes agriculture-rich areas. "The stepped up (workplace) enforcement has brought this to a head."

Lofgren said farmers are worried that their work force is about to disappear. They say they want to hire legal workers and U.S. citizens, but that it's nearly impossible, given the relatively low wages and back-breaking work.

Wages can range from minimum wage to more than $20 an hour. But workers often are paid by the piece; the faster they work, they more they make. A steady income lasts only as long as the planting and harvesting seasons, which can be measured in weeks.

"Few citizens express interest, in large part because this is hard, tough work," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak said this past week. "Our broken immigration system offers little hope for producers to do the right thing."

Arturo S. Rodriguez, president of United Farm Workers, said migrant farm workers are exposed to blistering heat with little or no shade and few water breaks. It's skilled work, he said, requiring produce pickers to be exact and quick. While the best mushroom pickers can earn about $35,000 to $40,000 a year for piece work, there's little chance for a good living and American workers don't seem interested in farm jobs.

"It is extremely difficult, hard, dangerous work," Rodriguez said.

Last year Rodriguez's group started the "Take Our Jobs" campaign to entice American workers to take the fields. He said of about 86,000 inquiries the group got about the offer, only 11 workers took jobs.

"That really was thought up by farm workers trying to figure out what is it we needed to do to show that we are not trying to take away anyone's job," Rodriguez said.

Vilsak and the American Farm Bureau Federation president, Bob Stallman, said in a recent conference call with reporters that the best and likely only hope to stave off an economic catastrophe for American farmers and consumers is comprehensive overhaul of immigration policy. Vilsak said the industry is worth about $5 billion to $9 billion a year.

"We need to address the agriculture labor supply," Stallman said. "This situation will affect the future of America's farmers and ranchers."

Manuel Cunha, president of Nisei Farmers League, a group representing growers in central California, said farmers don't have the wherewithal to verify a worker's status when their labor force is often hired on the spot and in a hurry to pick ripe crops. Forcing them to verify a worker's legal status, he said, would prove disastrous.

"If we were to use E-Verify now, we'd shut down, either that or farmers would go to prison," said Cunha, a Fresno-based citrus farmer. "We've admitted many workers are not legal and if you have to get rid of everybody, where do I go to get my labor? Nowhere. We have to have a work force that we can put in the system."

Shawn Coburn, a politically active farmer who grows thousands of acres of almonds on the west side Fresno County, said he favors tighter borders, a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for those already in the U.S., or at the very least their children. But, like Cunha, he believes a mandatory E-Verify plan would be nothing but trouble for the industry.

"I don't think it's going to happen, but if it does it would throw the California economy for a loop," Coburn said.

Without a broad overhaul in the works, industry officials have focused on improving the H-2A temporary agricultural workers visa program that's aimed at allowing season workers to come and work on U.S. farms.

The program, however, is costly, time consuming and inefficient, according to Cathleen Enright, vice president of federal government affairs for the Western Growers Association.

"It has never been a great program or easy to work with," Enright said. "It's an unbelievably crushing program."

There isn't enough capacity in the system to process, interview and approve visa applications for the nearly 1 million seasonal workers who take to the fields every season. Farmers are required to pay for a worker's transportation from their home country to the fields, provide housing and other benefits.

Even minor violations of the numerous rules and regulations that govern the H-2A program can lead to hefty fines, Enright said.

"It's too expensive, it's too litigious, it's too bureaucratic," said Lee Wicker, deputy director of the North Carolina Growers Association. "We need a program that farmers can use and have confidence in."

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said farmers in his area want to do the right thing and hire legal workers but they are frustrated with the stifling bureaucracy that comes with the visa program.

"It's a labyrinthine visa process, with the slow walking of applications," Gowdy said. "You could not by accident come up with a better plan to ruin the small family farm."

Farmers, he said, "are just at their wits' end."

Using the program to get workers can put farmers at a disadvantage if their competitors decide to take their chances and hire illegal workers, Wicker said.

Lawmakers agree the visa program is problematic, but there's a wide divide on how to make it workable.

In 2009, Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced legislation that would have given temporary resident status to immigrant farm workers and have created a path to legal residency for those workers after five years.

Neither bill, known as the AgJOBS Act, made it out committee. The idea is part of the discussion involving changes to the seasonal workers visa program, but Republicans have pledged to block it because it includes a path to legal status for immigrant workers.

Rep. Dan Lungren, a California Republican from an agriculture industry-heavy district near Sacramento, has said he sees that same "train wreck" Lofgren described, but that the AgJOBS bill isn't the answer.

"We're going to have a crisis in agriculture," Lungren said during a hearing this year on the visa program by the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration policy and enforcement. "And while it sounds great to say an agreement (on AgJOBS) is going to take care of it, it's not going to pass."

About the only hope for success for any immigration-related legislation, Lungren and others say, is a bill that would make it mandatory for American employers to use the government's E-Verify program to ensure their workers are legal.

GOP Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has pledged to introduce such legislation. Such a proposal appeared to get a push this past week when the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 in favor of an Arizona law that allows the state to penalize businesses for hiring illegal immigrant workers.

Agriculture officials say there needs to be some exception for farm workers.

"It needs to take into account the unique aspects of agriculture," Vilsak said.

Friday, May 27, 2011


All the U.S. Supreme Court did on May 26 was to nibble around the edges of our completely out-dated system to balance the need for workers with the supply for those workers.

The decision places greater burdens upon employers to verify the legal status of employees and applicants for jobs. Employer groups across the country have complained about these burdens on two counts: first, the Congress refuses to recognize the inability of employers to find workers for industries such as agriculture, restaurants, hotel and tourism among legal residents; and second, how difficult it is to function in a status verification process which is cumbersome, slow, and often wrong.

In the past, many Supreme Court decisions have contained express language urging Congress to enact legislative remedies in areas where a legislative void or confusion is present. Such a recommendation to Congress would have been far more helpful than permitting States to pass their own unequal and confusing laws on how to deal with the federal issue of immigration.

I fear that this decision will prompt many States to pass a variety of laws which are dissimilar, unclear, and burdensome to implement. Has not the Court invited a whole new barrage of cases testing the limits of this piece-meal approach?

Worse of all, the Court failed to understand the very difficult plight of immigrant workers who came to this country to meet the demand for employees from a vast number of industries. Virtually all of these workers are members of blended families--some members are legal residents, some are not. This Court decision seems to suggest that such undocumented workers will simply pack up and return to their countries of origin. Family members will not do that. The result will be more people in our country living unprotected in the shadows of society, and more employers finding ways around the burdensome regulations. Neither outcome serves our country well.

It is mystifying why the Court makes no reference to the 4,500,000 undocumented people in our country who came here on valid visas [mostly on commercial planes], but just never left after those visas expired. Why does the federal government refuse to implement a post-visa tracking system?

Congress has a moral duty to recognize the current outdated immigration system and to lead the nation in a civil discussion to deal with our employment imbalance, and to enact comprehensive immigration reform now--not promise to do so after the next election cycle.

By simply nibbling around the edges of our immigration mess, the Court has given the country a confusing policy of frayed edges--but no clear mandate to deal once and for all with our antiquated and unworkable immigration laws.

This decision offers President Obama and Congressional leaders the impetus to move immigration reform legislation forward now, rather than more years of these piece-meal legislative and judicial remedies.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I commend Navy Secretary Ray Maybus for deciding to name a Navy cargo ship after the California farmworker leader, Cesar Chavez.

No previous Navy cargo ship has ever been named to honor a Hispanic. This tribute is far overdue.

Cesar Chavez served in the Navy from 1946 to 1948. He had two cousins who were killed fighting in World War II. Chavez was awarded the U.S. Medal of Freedom in 1994.

It is ironic that Cesar would never have wanted any type of personal honor. His entire life was spent in that selfless service of others, especially poor farmworkers who had no voice, no power, nor ability to improve their lot.

Chavez made the plight of farmworkers, many undocumented men and women, a cause of national concern and embarrassment. His non-violent approach to organizing farmworkers in a real sense has never ceased. Because of the selfless work of farmworkers, we Americans pay only 6% of our annual incomes on food. That stands in stark contrast to almost every other country in the world where food takes a very large percentage of their incomes.

The USNS Cesar Chavez has a nice ring to it, and I look forward to its launching.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


On May 10 President Obama went to El Paso, Texas, to emphasize once again the need for Congress to enact meaningful immigration legislation to help fix our current, broken way of dealing with the country's increasing demand for workers. As we emerge from the economic downturn the demand for more workers will accelerate. But we have no system in place to meet this balance.

Congress has the opportunity to take action on two pieces of legislation which will greatly assist two large groups of people. The first is to consider and pass in the House and Senate the DREAM Act and AgJOBS. The first has already been introduced, and the second will be introduced shortly.

The DREAM Act provides a way for young people who were brought to this country without documents under the age of 16 years to move to legal residency status by graduating from college or serving in the military. It makes no sense to punish these young people who have never known any other country, and who have worked hard to get a sound education or to perform military service for the overall benefit of our country. The DREAM Act should be passed quickly and implemented so that we stop wasting the talents of these young people whose only interest is in bettering our country.

AgJOBS [Agriculture Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security Act] gives the opportunity for undocumented farmworkers who have worked at least 150 days in agriculture over the past two years to become legal residents. We need these workers to perform a myriad of tasks in all aspects of agriculture. Their efforts keep a steady food supply coming to our tables, and they are essential workers for our country. This is one area of employment where other Americans simply will not work.

I plead with President Obama to take a major leadership role in helping to pass both the DREAM Act and AgJOBS--both are essential to reignite our economy and to bring these two groups of people out from the shadows for the benefit of our nation.

Friday, April 29, 2011


Over more than twenty-five years, Pope John Paul II taught us so many things: God's overwhelming love for us, the incredible gift of his Son, Jesus Christ, and the teachings of Jesus which the Church carries forward down through the ages. For all of his gifts as Pastor and as our Holy Father, we give thanks to God.

Of all the Pope's teachings, inspiration, holiness, and example, two remain the most precious for me: He taught us how to grow old, and he taught us how to endure bodily illness.

Having turned 75 just recently, I am now beginning to understand more deeply the frailty of our human bodies. I don't have the strength nor endurance of younger years. Our aging bodies put constraints on our activities and our yearnings.

But Pope John Paul taught us to keep moving forward with our eyes fixed on Jesus [Hebrews 12:2] and with a determination to live out God's will in our lives--regardless of the lessening of our physical and mental abilities. Our Holy Father gave clear witness to us that we should never give up, that we should strive daily to live our lives after the pattern of Jesus.

In addition, Pope John Paul bore serious and more debilitating illness in his later years. Yet, he never complained, never hesitated to accept his share in the sufferings of Jesus for the salvation of the world. He used every ounce of his limited energy to continue to serve God and to shepherd the entire Church.

For me, his Christian witness in the final few years of his life was more powerful than all of his world pastoral travels and brilliant writings. By remaining ever faithful to his life in Christ especially during those difficult final years of his journey Pope John Paul proclaimed his most eloquent and touching sermon.

This wondrous example of Blessed John Paul has direct appeal to millions of people around the world. With people living longer than in previous generations John Paul has become a beacon of hope to the elderly and those with diminishing bodily strength. He taught us to accept God's precious gift of life and to live each day as fully as we can through God's grace.

And with so many people suffering from illness, natural disasters, and the violence of wars, John Paul walks ahead of us--possibly at a slower pace--but with a keen sense of how much we are loved by God.

While I cherish the many photos of Pope John Paul celebrating Mass in the Los Angeles Coliseum and in Dodger Stadium in September of 1987, my most cherished pictures are of him stooped and slowly moving about because of age and illness. The strength of his virtuous life was so visible and easy to comprehend in those last years.

I recall visiting cancer patients during those final years of Blessed John Paul, and I would take along several pictures which showed him obviously ill. His acceptance of age and illness inspired so many who were suffering. Through his own living example he called so many to allow Christ the Healer to embrace them in their struggles and on their difficult journeys.

May Blessed John Paul continue to be an inspiration to all of us, but most especially, to us who are aging and enduring bodily sufferings.

May we always keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and live each day according to God's plan for each of us!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


On Tuesday, April 19, President Barack Obama hosted an important meeting at the White House at which he gave a new commitment to use his office as President to help engage the American public in passing meaningful immigration reform in our country. I applaud the President for taking this step.

The Catholic Church in our country was well represented by Bishop John Wester, the Bishop of Salt Lake City. He emphasized that the President was the key person to help move needed legislation forward.

At that meeting the President reconfirmed his commitment to a comprehensive approach to immigration reform, and expressed his desire that such legislation move forward during the present Congressional year.

In order for immigration to reform to succeed in this Congress, however, depends entirely upon President Obama. His position of leadership is crucial and key to any next steps.

What is clear, though, is that the status quo of no reform is unacceptable. We have no meaningful programs in place to balance the needs for workers in many lower income jobs with the supply of those workers. Consequently, at our Southern Border we have a fence. And upon that fence are two signs. The first says HELP WANTED. And the one next to it says: NO TRESPASSING.

The President is the one person in our country who can begin to bring together a consensus on immigration reform. But we need to move beyond demagoguery and global assertions about various immigrant groups.

Businesses across the nation, both small and large, rely heavily upon immigrant workers to fill their jobs. The business community needs to step forward and offer its support to legislation which relieves business of unfair employee advantages.

All of our Faith Communities--Jewish, Muslim, and Christian--need to be part of a great coalition to work together for the rights of all immigrants in our country. All of us agree upon both the Scriptural foundations for the value of immigrants, as well as the values of each Faith Community for "the stranger in our midst."

The group most affected by our present situation are families. Most people are unaware that there is no such thing as a purely "illegal immgrant family". Rather, our immigrant families consist of members who are here with legal documents, and those who are not. We call these families "blended families". Obviously, these families are not going to volunteer to dissolve and have some members remain here while others return to their country of origin.

In the meantime, President Obama can take steps on his own to provide some relief to immigrant groups, and I encourage him to do so. He has the executive authority to use prosecutorial discretion to minimize the deportation of immigrants with long-time equities in our country, such as wthose with USA citizen children or DREAM Act students.

To date, the present Administration has deported more immigrants than the previous Administration, many of whom would benefit from a comprehensive immigration reform bill in Congress, which would provide a path towards full legal residence.

The present approach of President Obama sends a mixed message as to the priorities of the Administration.

Countless millions of us are at the ready to assist the President to meet his avowed commitment to comprehensive immigration reform. Now is the day, now is the hour!

President Obama, we all stand ready to join you as you lead our overall efforts forward on behalf of our immigrant peoples!!

Monday, April 11, 2011


After having met with students at Notre Dame University recently, I am more convinced than ever that our young adults on our Catholic colleges and universities are the ones to make immigration reform possible.

These young men and women truly "get it" when discussing immigration issues. Why? Because they actually know other college students like themselves who are unauthorized residents--young people brought to this country as minors, and who have worked hard to get a good college education. What's different? After graduation, these industrious college graduates cannot get a job that matches their education because they do not have resident documents.

Both Notre Dame University and De Paul University in Chicago are taking leadership roles in this effort. We will begin with a "Mid-west Circle" of some 63 Catholic colleges/universities in that circle, and gradually network the remaining 177 Catholic institutions.

Our focus will be almost entirely on the students at these campuses, and their suggestions will help create a Website, Facebook page, and other networking links among the 240 campuses.

Existing student campus organizations will be the ones approached first to see if immigration issues is a topic that falls under their umbrella of purpose and activities. It's always better to work with existing groups on campus rather than to create a new one.

One of the main tasks of the campus groups will be to help inform the other students about the various immigration issues. But these groups will also sponsor special Prayer Days for immigrants, forums to discuss the issues, and advocacy on local and federal legislation such as the DREAM Act.

The young men and women on our Catholic campuses of higher education will provide a Gospel-based wave of energy and enthusiasm to protect the rights of our immigrant brothers and sisters.

Jesus' words continue to call for our full response: "For I was a stranger and you welcomed me"! [Matthew 25:35]

Monday, April 4, 2011


Commentators on immigration and immigration reform issues offer various views on the chances of passing meaningful immigration legislation before the 2012 Presidential election.

I'm in the camp of those who believe that the possibilities of getting some immigration in the coming months and year are improving by the day. Three reasons give me hope: first, the nation's economy continues to improve. With an improving economy and the creation of many new jobs, people become less concerned about looking for scapegoats to explain the economic downturn. Back in December 2000 when the unemployment rate was 3.9%, no one raised any concern about immigrants--legal or not.

Second, the vast majority of American people realize we are an immigrant nation, and they are open to hearing and discussing reasonable solutions which both help our society to improve and our immigrants to come out of the shadows. All recent polls point to this encouraging feeling among Americans.

And third, with Hispanics now totalling some 50 million people, and with the high percentage of Hispanics under 21, political parties need to reach out to immigrants in a manner that is more just, fair, and realistic. Those younger Hispanics become voters, and political parties need to take steps which encourage membership in their parties. Harsh, repressive measures against "illegal aliens" make certain that Hispanics will join groups which support and assist them.

The relentless cry among so many that border security is the highest priority does not ring true. Our nation has spent billions of dollars on border security, taking unprecedented steps to secure all our borders. But total border security is impossible when two factors remain current: lower-income jobs need to be filled in our country, and the insatiable demand for illegal drugs on the part of our citizens.

Our national paradox remains: on the borders of our country we have erected two signs, about 100 feet apart. The first says HELP WANTED; and the second says NO TRESPASSING. We presently have no workable system to balance the demand and the supply for lower wage jobs.

I remain confident that the coming weeks could lead to some breakthroughs--maybe with the DREAM Act, or with AgJobs. Both make sense, and most Americans have common sense and the desire to take some positive steps to bring 11 million people out from the shadows.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


As we enter upon our Lenten Journey 2011, and as we listen once again to the Gospel of the First Sunday of Lent, we are reminded that as human beings we also are tempted frequently by Satan.

The Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent always focuses upon the temptations which Satan offered to Jesus. We are all familiar with the story and the outcome.

However, if Jesus lived in 2011 and was tempted by Satan, what would be today's points of temptation? Where would Satan take Jesus today?

Exactly where he tempts us to go: Straight to the internet.

With all of its great advantage as a marvelous font of information, knowledge, and connectivity, sadly the internet has also become infected with a terrible "virus"--the Satan Virus.

Let me propose three internet temptation "sites" where Satan might take Jesus, and let's reflect ourselves on whether we have been tempted similarly.

First internet site: Where can I exert personal power over others, becoming my own god? How can I get even with someone, or even demean and destroy their reputation? There are too many sites which allow people to attack others viciously, posting all kinds of dribble and hurtful stories and accusations. The only purpose here is to demean, belittle, and harm someone else and their reputation. It's called "cyber bullying" among other things, but can become so destructive that some people who are so victimized even take their own lives because they can't stand it anymore.

My Lenten Question: Have I ever done something like this--whether in jest or in a destructive manner? Do I fully realize that once I launch such destructive material into cyberspace it cannot be retrieved--ever? Then I need to renounce this form of destruction of others. This Lent, let's refrain from these sites as an act of fasting from evil. Our Lord Jesus Christ will bless us!

Second internet site: Where can I destroy the innate human dignity of another person, and exploit them as objects of sexual exploitation? Sadly, internet pornography has taken a massive and ugly grip on the internet, and led to sites of the crudest degradation of the human person. New activities such as "sexting" are increasingly replacing normal communications between people, degrading everyone involved.

My Lenten Question: Do I visit internet sites which focus almost entirely on sexual degradation of men? Of women? Of children? Then this Lent I must seek God's grace to say "no" to such perversion which destroys the dignity of the human person. This form of fasting from degrading evil will bring us a deeper freedom as children of God and as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.

Third internet site: Where on-line do I squander my financial resources in addictive behavior that wastes money? Do I visit on-line betting sites? Do I respond to pop-up ads and buy things that I don't need? Do I waste my family's money with frequent purchases of the latest electronic gimmicks? Do I purchase endless numbers of Apps for my phone or laptop? Satan relishes our out-of-control internet spending since too often these purchases become my gods.

My Lenten Question: Am I an internet buying addict? Do I monitor my on-line purchases? Do I discuss these purchases with my spouse or friends? Do I set limits on the amount of time I am on-line? Do I understand that self-control in internet purchases is a true form of fasting? This Lent let's resolve to abstain from needless on-line purchases. One way to do that is to keep a piece of paper next to our computer, and when tempted to buy something, just write it down instead of making the purchase. Let a week go by and review the list; do I really need that item? In most cases, our response will be No.

ENT 2011 As we begin once again our Lenten Journey, may each of s be truly honest about our ventures into cyberspace and the internet. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, what changes do I need to make in my use of the internet? How can I abstain from the evil websites and focus more fully upon websites that uplift the human spirit after the example and model of Jesus Christ?

Recall those marvelous words in the Letter to the Hebrews: "Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus!" [Hebrews 12:2] If we use this Lent to keep our eyes constantly fixed on Jesus, then the temptations and the evil will fall from our sight.

Together let's make this a truly astounding Lent!!!

Monday, February 28, 2011


Sunday, February 27, 2011 was an awesome day of God's grace for me. As I reached my 75th birthday, the time had come to relinquish my duties as the active Archbishop of Los Angeles and to welcome Archbishop Jose H. Gomez as the new Archbishop of Los Angeles.

The two Masses of Transition were celebrated in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, first in English and then in Spanish. My Coat of Arms was taken down, and that of Archbishop Gomez was installed. Archbishop Gomez was then seated in the Cathedra, the Archbishop's official "Chair" in the Cathedral.

Although the official and canonical change of episcopal leadership takes place at 12:01 AM on Tuesday, March 1st, the liturgical transition occurred on Sunday within the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

Both Masses were filled to overflowing, and God's People here in Los Angeles were active participants in this historical transition. Sunday was not a day of sadness nor tears; rather, it was a day of joyous hope as we experienced God's plan of salvation being lived out in our midst. "Mahony goes; Gomez comes; but Jesus Christ remains the same"!

I am writing this blog entry at Los Angeles International Airport as I await my plane to Frankfurt, then on to Rome. While I am going to room for meetings with the Pontifical Council on Social Communications, it is also in God's Providence that the day of the transition to our new Archbishop I will be in the Eternal City of Rome. On March 3 I will celebrate a special Mass in St. Peter's for all the wonderful people of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

People ask whether I am sad at moving to the new title of "Archbishop Emeritus." Absolutely not. My understanding of the Church is that Jesus Christ remains the heart and center of our Church, and we Bishops come and go down through salvation history. That is why the word "legacy" as applied to Bishops and Archbishops is so far off the mark. We are not called to develop nor to leave "legacies," but rather, to be faithful to Jesus Christ and the Gospels. We accept the Gospel, we try to live it out and to pass it on, and then we move aside so that the Lord might call others to continue the active work in the Vineyard of the Lord.

I look forward to celebrating Masses in our parishes on Sundays, and to working with others across the country to support our immigrant brothers and sisters. There is still so much priestly and pastoral work to do and I embrace that with joy, peace, and enthusiasm.

Please know of my very special prayers for all of you!!!

Photo Slideshow: Mass of Transition

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


The failure of the U.S. Senate to pass the DREAM Act on December 18, 2010 was a tragedy on two counts: first, thousands of young men and women have concluded their college/university studies, and they are now prepared to get jobs which will help our economy recover and thrive; but without legal residence status, they are barred from using their education.

Second, as taxpayers we invested huge sums of money in educating these young people, and now we just toss them aside. Using the figures from the Los Angeles Unified School District, a student going from kindergarten to twelfth grade would have cost the District $130,000 [$10,000 per year, 13 years](1). Assuming that this same student then attended California State University at Northridge, he/she would have cost the Cal State system $10,901 per year--a total of $43,604 for four years (2).

That is a grand total of $173,604 spent on that student. What an incredible investment in a young person who is now ready and eager to use his/her talents for the betterment of our country and our economy. And yet, short-sighted legislators seem to discount the true value of each young person in an undocumented status, and to discount the huge outlay of tax funds to education them.

Just when these young people are equipped to get a job and begin paying taxes, we toss them aside. Their only recourse is to find minimum wage work, much of it by being paid in cash with no taxes withheld.

This approach makes no sense whatsoever, and we as a nation end up depriving these young people--most of whom have grown up in the United States--of the opportunity to contribute to our society and to our economy.

The DREAM Act could accomplish so much for our nation and for our young adults who were brought here as minors years ago. That's why so many of us will continue our efforts to recognize the true value of these young people and to work to obtain legal status for them.

Let's not give up on our wonderful young people who are eager to make our country even greater!

(1) www.laschoolboard.org/files/Tab%202%20Per-Pupil%20Budgeting%202008%200918a.pdf

(2) http://collegemeasures.org/reporting/institution/scorecard/cps/110608.aspx

Tuesday, January 18, 2011



Welcoming the Strangers in Our Midst

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony
Archbishop of Los Angeles
January 16, 2011

As I near formal retirement in a few weeks, many people have asked what I plan to do after retiring. Because my roots and most of my time in ministry have been in Los Angeles, I plan to remain in the city I know with the people whom I love.

I have spent our annual Bishops’ Retreat in early January praying and reflecting on where the Lord Jesus is calling me to focus my time and energy over the coming months and years.

When Archbishop José H. Gomez becomes the Archbishop of Los Angeles in the last days of February, I will be free from the demanding administrative duties which are part of serving as Archbishop of the largest Archdiocese in the country. Each day I shall continue to pray for all of the people of our Archdiocese, as well as pray for and support our Archbishop.

With fewer duties, I am eager to give more emphasis to my ministry as a priest—celebrating the Eucharist as needed, hearing confessions, as well as having more time for hospital visits.

In reflecting back on my years in ministry as a priest and as a bishop, I have come to see that so much of that ministry brought me in touch with immigrant peoples, regardless of how they came to this country. While growing up in the San Fernando Valley I came in contact with those Mexican-American men and women who worked for my parents at their plant. They became my friends. During my years as a seminarian at Saint John’s Seminary in Camarillo, several of us seminarians were able to accompany priests to the farm labor camps where Mass was offered for the braceros, the temporary farm workers mostly from Mexico.

After my ordination to the priesthood, I served in the San Joaquin Valley and was always deeply touched by the faith, traditions, and commitment to family on the part of countless immigrants across the Valley—a large number of whom were involved in agriculture. Their hard work and sacrifices were evident at every turn. The efforts of Cesar Chavez to improve the salaries and working conditions of thousands of farm workers in our State greatly inspired me.

After being ordained bishop, my ministry continued with immigrants in the Dioceses of Fresno and of Stockton. Again, I was attracted to these people because of their faith and love for the Church. They were always anxious to help whenever asked, whether by assisting others in need or by lending a hand in the parish or the Diocese.

With my appointment as Archbishop of Los Angeles in 1985, this relationship expanded as Asian Pacific and other immigrant peoples from different parts of the world became part of my ministry as well.

Over these many years, I have been constantly called and challenged by the words of Jesus: “For I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35), echoing God’s mandate to his people in the Old Testament.

Over the years immigrant peoples have become very dear to me, and Jesus continues to call me to walk with them on their journey. I intend to spend the coming months and years walking in solidarity with the 11,000,000 immigrants who have come to the United States to improve their own lives and the life of our country and to advocate on behalf of the silent millions. In a special way I look forward to collaborating closely with our United States Bishops’ Conference and the Committee on Migration and Refugees which is now chaired by the next Archbishop of Los Angeles, the Most Reverend José H. Gomez.

For so many immigrants in the United States today, life is not easy. With the terrible downturn in the economy the past two years, millions of people have lost jobs in every field of employment. Many have had to give up their homes and to make deep sacrifices to keep their families going. So many voices blame immigrant peoples for our economic woes. This is unjust and flies in the face of the facts.

Some 11,000,000 of our immigrant brothers and sisters are misunderstood and maligned. Without legal documents, their livelihoods and their very lives are at risk. They live in the shadows of our society. They are easy targets of blame for everything that has gone wrong, and is going wrong, with our country. But a little historical perspective sheds light on our current situation and gives hope for the future, helping us to see immigrants not as “those people,” but as brothers and sisters living in our communities with the same longings and aspirations as all Americans.

If we would refresh our memories as a nation, we would see that the presence of immigrants—with or without legal documents—is never a cause of concern when the unemployment rate is low and our economy is sound and expanding. For example, in December 2000 the nation’s unemployment rate was 3.9%. Those were the heady years of the technology and construction booms, and we needed everyone available to fill the jobs. But after the financial and housing collapse of early 2008, the unemployment rate has grown to the point of 9.8% in December 2010. As the economy improves, gradually, the need for workers will also increase.

I am encouraged by the prospects of helping these silent millions in our midst. A review of major national polls since 2007 shows the reason for my optimism: a majority of people polled believe our borders need to be made more secure, and that illegal immigration needs to be controlled. But the same polls reveal that a majority of people polled [63% in one poll, 81% in another] are open to a structured path to earned citizenship for those who are here in our country without papers but who pass background checks, pay fines, and have jobs.

These high percentages tell me that our Catholic Gospel values and the American spirit are still alive among us. I suspect that many anti-immigrant feelings and sentiments arise from frustration with the seeming inability, or the unwillingness, to fix our broken immigration system. Three websites are useful to come to a deeper knowledge of immigration issues: The Justice for Immigrants organization sponsored by the Church; the Faces of Immigrants site sponsored by our Archdiocese; and the Migration Policy Institute.

I would like to focus on the positives and encourage all of us to get to know our immigrant neighbors more personally. We will discover that their core values are the same as ours, and that they are here to help enrich, not diminish, our fine country. Once we put a human face on an immigrant, the stereotypes and across-the-board characterizations begin to dissolve.

When the disciples ask the King, “When did I see you a stranger and welcome you?” Jesus responds: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:38, 40). Let’s begin a deeper conversation among ourselves without the harsh accusatory rhetoric which has so clouded this debate in recent years.

Across the country we have so many immigrants who are invisible and strangers. I have great hope in working with our Catholic people at the parish level in order to understand Jesus’ invitation “to welcome the strangers in our midst.”

But there is more. We need to engage our Catholic business and professional leaders, our Catholic colleges and universities, and our national Catholic organizations, urging them to put a human face on the immigrants in our midst and to give assistance to immigrant peoples as they struggle to find their rightful place in our society by becoming active participants in our communities, working jobs and paying taxes, and giving their very best for our country.

As I move forward to the next stage of my journey in faith, I ask that you join me in prayer and mutual support as I seek to live more wholeheartedly the answer to the call I have heard from Jesus: When did you see me, a stranger, and welcome me? When I looked into the faces of the eleven million who all bear the hopeful face of Jesus Christ!