Cardinal Mahony's May Day
By: Anne Hendershott
In his continuing quest to bring attention to himself, Cardinal Mahony was one of the most vocal protestors of Arizona’s controversial new immigration law at the May Day Rally in Los Angeles. Chanting with protestors from atop a flatbed truck at the start of the rally, Cardinal Mahony was described by the Los Angeles Times http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/01/local/la-me-0502-mahony-20100502 as being “enlivened by the throngs of adoring supporters who kissed his hand and asked to be blessed.”
Cardinal Mahony has become a hero in the Latino community. Claiming that Arizona was becoming like “Nazi Germany,” the Cardinal spent the past week criticizing policymakers who passed a law which would target those with “brown skin, black hair and listen to ranchera music.”
Indeed, in a series of statements that made many Catholics cringe, the Cardinal was described by a Los Angeles Times reporter as saying that the Arizona legislation has a positive side because it is “an important part of moving on.” The Times reporter claimed that the Cardinal was referring to the fact that the immigration issue “gives the Catholic Church a welcome break from criticism of its handling of sexual abuse allegations against priests.”
Now Cardinal Mahony has a new website called FacesofImmigrants.org which calls on Catholics to refuse to be “side-tracked by heated rhetoric and political posturing.” Perhaps he should take some of that advice himself. Comparing Arizona to Nazi Germany might qualify as “heated rhetoric.” Still, the Cardinal makes some good points on the website where he provides the actual stories of the immigrants themselves.
The stories of struggling families—fearful of deportation and separation from loved ones—are poignant. As Catholics, we have to listen to these stories. Immigration is not just about the violent drug smugglers and the lawlessness at the border. Having lived for more than 15 years in San Diego, I agree with Cardinal Mahony that we need to “take the time to open our minds and hearts to hear the actual stories of the immigrants themselves.”
There are many hard-working immigrants who came here to find better lives for themselves. These hard-working, taxpaying immigrants deserve our attention and our help in bringing them out of the shadows. There really can be a middle ground between Cardinal Mahony and Republican lawmaker, Tom Tancredo, who in 2006 said he would like to “shut off all immigration.”
But, we first need to secure the borders. The Arizona legislation is what happens when the federal government fails to act. The citizens of Arizona have gotten to the point where they believe they needed to take matters into their own hands. Most of us cannot blame them—they are protecting their families, their farms, and their economy. The Arizona legislation is a start because it may help move federal immigration reform. And, it is not helpful for Cardinal Mahony to compare them to Nazis.
Anne Hendershott is chair of the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Program at The King’s College in New York City, and the author of Status Envy: The Politics of Catholic Higher Education(Transaction).