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Moving Toward the Light

January 16, 1994

On more than one occasion, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles has spoken out forthrightly and eloquently about the illegal immigration issue. His continuing observations constitute a considerable public service at a time when the issue is generating too much heat and precious little enlightenment.

While not gainsaying in the slightest the need to enforce the laws and maintain control over U.S. borders, the cardinal believes that the whole illegal immigration issue has been overly simplified, politicized and trivialized. Mahony's perspective is that to lose sight of the fundamentals--which is that the people in question are not mere statistics or simply fodder for politicians but human beings with dignity and spirituality--is to lose sight of our basic decency as a society.

"Prophetic vision will emerge when we are willing to include the moral dimension in the discussion," he said to a legislative committee in Sacramento, "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."

Immigration into this country, he says, will not be controlled by simple devices, simplistic speeches or magical policy prescriptions. Nor should the effort to come to grips with the problem undermine basic respect for the individuals involved.

"Respect for human dignity and human life is not negotiable," he said. "Human dignity is not determined by social class, citizenship, race or ethnicity."

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