My friends, I am honored to be here with you this morning. This Rotary Club is such a distinguished group, such a historic organization.

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1 Immigration and the Next America Most Reverend José H. Gomez Archbishop of Los Angeles Rotary Club of Los Angeles Los Angeles, California January 10, 2013 My friends, I am honored to be here with you this morning. This Rotary Club is such a distinguished group, such a historic organization. I want to say, first of all thank you for everything that you do for the people of our city. Thank you especially for what you do for poor and the weak, the ones that Jesus called the least of our brothers and sisters. I know that you consider the Catholic Church a partner in building a better Los Angeles and a better world. As most of you know, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles operates one of the largest school systems in the state. We have about 80,000 kids in our Catholic schools. Many of them are not Catholic and more than one-third come from families living below the poverty line. We subsidize these schools and students through the generous sacrifices of our Catholic people. The Archdiocese also operates a social services network that serves nearly a million people each year in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. We run preschools and after-school programs; assisted living and senior facilities; shelters for the homeless and domestic violence victims. We provide substance abuse and mental health counseling. We run anti-gang and neighborhood development programs. And also through our various charities, schools and parishes, the Church has extensive experience serving the immigrant peoples of Los Angeles documented and undocumented. We carry out our ministries here in more than 40 languages. In fact, I don t think there is another single institution in Los Angeles that does more for our immigrants than the Catholic Church. So I m grateful for your invitation to talk to you today about immigration. I ve been working with immigrants and advocating on this issue for more than twenty years. Last year I wrote a little book on the subject called Immigration and the Next America.

2 Page 2 of 5 I should tell you up front that for me this issue isn t only about politics or economics. Certainly, I think immigration reform is essential as a matter of justice and human rights. I also think it makes good sense for strengthening our economy, our families and our social fabric. In terms of policies, I join my brother Catholic bishops of the United States in supporting comprehensive reform that keeps families together, that gives rights to workers, and that provides a generous path to citizenship. But I m not a politician, a businessman or an activist. I m a pastor. That s how I look at this issue. I also look at this issue as an immigrant myself. I was born in Monterrey, Mexico and lived there until I moved to Texas in the 80 s. So I m an immigrant and I m also a naturalized American citizen. I still have family and friends on both sides of the border. So I don t want to talk to you today about the politics of immigration, or the economics. You all know these subjects far better than me. I want to share my perspective as a Catholic priest and bishop and as an immigrant who loves this country that has welcomed me and that I have come to call my home. I d like to start our conversation this morning by talking about Pope Francis. As you might have heard, we Catholics have a new Pope! It s amazing how everybody in the world seems to be talking about the Pope. He s in the headlines every day. Time magazine s Person of the Year. The front page of the New York Times on Monday. He s being quoted in speeches by the President and members of Congress. For me, all this is very beautiful. It reminds us that millions of people in our world today are still searching for holiness and love. For truth and for God. I had the privilege of celebrating a morning Mass with Pope Francis shortly after his election last April. I also had the privilege of having an audience with him this past fall. And I can tell you this Pope is the real deal. He s a holy man and a man of prayer. He has a simple love for Jesus and the poor and he has a beautiful vision for human happiness. The reason I m mentioning him today is because Pope Francis is not only the first Pope from Latin America. He s also the son of an immigrant. His father was a railroad worker who came to Argentina from Italy seeking a better life. And many people don t realize that the Pope s first trip outside of Rome was to a tiny Mediterranean island called Lampedusa. He made the trip in July for the purpose of highlighting the plight of immigrants and refugees around the world.

3 Page 3 of 5 The Pope went to Lampedusa because it s a major border crossing for Africans hoping to reach Europe. But thousands die every year trying to make their way across the sea. Thousands more become victims of human traffickers. Yet nobody seems to care or do anything about it. Pope Francis said something very moving when he was at Lampedusa. He said: Today no one in our world feels responsible. We have lost a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters. The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people. In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference. I ve been thinking a lot about the Pope s words and the immigration situation in our own country. Because I don t think many people here understand that we have our own Lampedusas not far from our borders here in the United States. In my ministry as a priest and bishop over the years in Colorado, Texas and now in Southern California I ve met a lot of immigrants. And sometimes the stories they tell can make your heart ache. And we don t think about these people what they go through, what they ve suffered, just to try to give a better life to their children. We don t think about the people who are dying in the deserts trying to reach our borders. Or the women and children who become victims of smugglers and human traffickers. That s why immigration reform for me isn t about the politics. Immigration reform for me is about these people. It s about all the children and families caught up in our broken system. Immigration reform is about what is happening to America. There are times in the life of every nation that are a trial. We are living in one of those times right now in America. Our national debate is really a great struggle for the American spirit and the American soul. How we respond to the challenge of illegal immigration will measure our national character and conscience in this generation. America s founders dreamed of a nation where men and women from every race, religion and national background could live in equality as brothers and sisters, children of the same God. The founders vision helped make this country a nation of immigrants one people made from peoples of many nations, races and creeds. And that s what s at stake in the immigration debate the future of the American Dream. America has always been a great nation with a generous heart. But our great nation today finds itself reduced to dealing with undocumented immigrants through namecalling and discrimination. Through criminal profiling based on race. Random

4 Page 4 of 5 identity checks. Commando-style raids of workplaces and homes. Arbitrary detentions and deportations. Over that last four years, we ve deported nearly 2 million people. Thousands more are being held without charges or representation in detention centers here in Los Angeles and around the country. In the name of enforcing our laws, we re breaking up families. Punishing kids for the mistakes of their parents. That s the sad truth one out of every four people we deport is being taken away from an intact family. My friends, we re talking about souls not statistics. We re talking about fathers who without warning, won t be coming home for dinner tonight. Parents who may not see their families again for a decade. We re talking about kids suddenly left without a mom or a dad. We ve also come to accept a permanent underclass of men and women who are living at the margins of our society. They care for our children. They build our homes and clean our offices. They harvest the food we eat. But they have no rights, no security, and right now they have no reason to hope that things are ever going to get better. This is the reality of where we re at with our immigration policy in this country right now. And I think everyone would agree that this is not the America that our Founders dreamed of. We are a better people than this. So we have to find a better way. And we have to do it now. We can t wait for another election cycle to go by, while we do nothing. So let me conclude here. In this coming year, as the House of Representatives starts a new round of debates on the issue, my prayer is that our leaders and all of us will remember what America was meant to be. A nation of immigrants. A light of freedom and opportunity for all peoples. And I pray that we can find the courage to move beyond the politics and really start to see the human faces of immigration the children and the families. Mother Teresa used to say that everybody talks about the poor but nobody talks to the poor. I think that s also true about undocumented immigrants. When we talk to them, when we really get to know them, we see that they are just men and women like we are trying to do what s right for their families, for their children. As a nation, we can t remain indifferent when so many of our brothers and sisters are suffering. And there is no political calculation that can justify the tears of a child whose mom or dad has been deported.

5 Page 5 of 5 So I think all of us have a part to play in building a new movement of conscience and a new spirit of compassion and caring for others in our country. We need to find a way to start caring more about the sufferings of these 11 million people who are living here without authorization. Thank you again for this chance to talk to you. It really is an honor. And again, thank you for everything you are doing for the people of this great city, especially the poor. I hope in the years to come we can work together to really make our city and our country a place where no one is a stranger. Where everyone is welcomed to join us in the promise of America and to live with the dignity that God intends for them. May God bless you all and give you peace.

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