Catholic Cardinal Urges Obama to Bring Illegal Immigrants ‘Out of the Shadows’

By Matt Hadro | January 9, 2009 | 7:33 PM EST

An old plate hangs on the U.S.-Mexico border fence which reads in Spanish "Friendship Garden" in Tijuana, Mexico, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009. The U.S. Border Patrol will close the park on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean to make way for a triple fence. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias)

( - Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony, the archbishop of Los Angeles, urged President-elect Barack Obama last week to expend some of his “tremendous political capital" by moving quickly to enact comprehensive immigration reform.
While criticizing worksite immigration raids and the construction of what he called a “wall” at the U.S.-Mexico border, Cardinal Mahony declared that illegal immigrants “must be brought out of the shadows so that they can fully contribute to our nation’s future economic and social well-being.”
Mahony spoke Thursday on a conference call for reporters sponsored by the National Immigration Forum.  The call also featured National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguia.
“The year 2009 will obviously be a very pivotal year for our nation as we attempt to tackle so many important issues from the economy to peace in the Middle East,” said Cardinal Mahony. “But one issue of grave moral importance which our country can no longer avoid or postpone is that of immigration reform.
“Our current immigration policies, including things such as intermittent worksite raids, local law enforcement involvement, a wall along our southern border, among other enforcement actions, have led to a separation of immigrant families, an increase in fear and mistrust of law enforcement in immigrant communities and discord and violence along our southern border,” he said.
The cardinal stressed that he would like to see an immigration bill passed this year.
“To continue to delay action will increase tension in states and localities, further alienate immigrant communities, and tacitly affirm the acceptance of a hidden and permanent underclass in our society,” said Cardinal Mahony. “So I call upon the new administration and new Congress to take up and enact comprehensive immigration reform, legislation during the 111th Congress, and during the year 2009.  Immigrants must be brought out of the shadows so that they can fully contribute to our nation’s future economic and social well-being.”
The Cardinal expressed his view that the immigration reform of 1986 that granted amnesty to most of the illegal immigrants then present in the United States was not comprehensive enough.
“We learned in 1986 of the downside of trying to do something piecemeal,” said the Cardinal. “If you recall, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, or IRCA, which was passed in 1986, put its major emphasis on the amnesty portion, and the Congress said, ‘We’ll get to the other pieces later.’
“Many of us objected at the time, because they never did get to the other pieces,” he said.  “So, by going about this piecemeal, we run the risk of people saying, ‘Oh well, we got this part of it done, let’s just move on to other problems.’ To be effective, all of the pieces have to be linked and in harmony with each other.  I know all the speakers on this program today are for a comprehensive package that fixes all the broken parts.”
The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), represented on the conference call by its President Janet Murguia, is a longtime champion of comprehensive immigration reform that amnesties illegal aliens and puts them on a path to U.S. citizenship. NCLR’s position is stated on its website.
“NCLR supports comprehensive immigration reform that includes the following principles: 1) a path to citizenship for the current undocumented population; 2) the creation of new legal channels for future immigrant workers; 3) a reduction of family immigration backlogs; and 4) the protection of civil rights and civil liberties,” says the NCLR website. “By legalizing immigrants who live, work, and contribute to life in the U.S., the U.S. could deal fairly with hardworking people who have responded to an economic reality ignored by the law. At the same time, the U.S. can become more secure by enforcing the new law and by allowing undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows and participate fully in their communities.
Cardinal Mahony indicated he is hoping President-elect Obama will show leadership on the issue and use the great degree of political leverage he is likely to have over the new Congress to quickly enact a comprehensive immigration reform package.
“He has tremendous political capital, in the new Congress as well as with the voters across the country, so this is the most opportune time,” said the Cardinal. “And those folks with crazy ideas and negative ideas, I think will fade into the West.”