SACRAMENTO — Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony warned Wednesday that politicians exploiting the immigration issue for votes threaten "to drive an even deeper wedge between people in our communities" in this election year.
An outspoken defender of immigrants' rights, Mahony called for "true leadership" from those who are willing to address the immigration issue with "creativity and compassion" that he said "has been absent so far."
Mahony also contended that "legislation tends to be piecemeal, and, therefore ineffective" because of the lack of a comprehensive overall immigration policy.
"Prophetic vision will emerge when we are willing to include the moral dimension in the discussion, when we are able to recognize the immigrant as a sister or brother, not the enemy; as an opportunity to strengthen our community, not a problem to be solved," he said.
The cardinal made his remarks in testimony before an Assembly committee on the impact of immigration. Headed by Assemblywoman Grace Napolitano (D-Norwalk), the committee held its fifth and final hearing on the subject.
The panel is expected to present its findings and recommendations to the Legislature in coming weeks.
Mahony criticized legislation designed to deter illegal immigration as well as two proposed ballot initiatives aimed at cutting public aid to illegal immigrants for health care and public schooling.
"Immigration into this country will not be controlled solely through the measures being proposed (such as) denying basic human services, militarizing our borders, creating tamper-proof identification cards or constructing other obstacles across our borders," he said.
He said several principles based on moral and ethical concerns should be included in an overall immigration policy.
First, Mahony said, every person is endowed with a basic and fundamental dignity as a creature created by God--regardless of their immigration status.
"Respect for human dignity and human life is not negotiable," Mahony said. "Human dignity is not determined by social class, citizenship, race or ethnicity."