JOSEE Kubiak was angry with Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony after the Ash Wednesday service. She had come to church for a religious service and had to listen to Mahony’s speech on the importance of making “room in our hearts” for immigrants. Kubiak’s anger came out in the usual anti-immigrant arguments about being “overrun with illegals” who want everything “for free.” The Catholic Church should not support them, according to Kubiak, a native of Belgium who immigrated legally to the U.S. in 1952. Mahony’s position on unauthorized immigrants may not be consistent with some Catholics’ political views on immigration, but it’s certainly a reflection of Jesus Christ’s beliefs. In his remarks, Mahony asked his flock to show Christian charity to undocumented immigrants. Mahony’s comments reflected the thrust of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ campaign called “Justice for Immigrants.” It covers five principles, which include more visas for immigrants to reduce the delays to reunify families, a guest-worker program with a path to residency, better legal processes to guarantee immigrants’ rights, legalization of undocumented immigrants, and economic development to reduce the need to emigrate. The bishops’ plan goes against the Border Enforcement Bill approved by the House of Representatives in December. One of the early features of the legislation was the change of illegal entry into the U.S. from a violation of civil immigration law into a federal crime. In effect, the estimated 12 million unauthorized immigrants would become felons if the U.S. Senate were to approve the House bill. The bill would also authorize state and local police to enforce federal immigration laws. In addition, anyone helping unauthorized immigrants to live or remain in the U.S. could be charged with a criminal offense. That means that even churches or charities giving assistance to undocumented workers could become guilty of a crime. In essence, priests would have to ask immigrants for their legal status before giving them Holy Communion. If the U.S. Senate were to approve the bill in its present form, it would become a Draconian legislation. Pessimists believe that it’s already too late for the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ plan to have any influence. Those who see the control of the border as the solution to the immigration dilemma appear to control the agenda. Mahony’s plan is to ask priests to defy the law in the unlikely event that the U.S. Senate approves the Border Enforcement Bill and President George W. Bush signs it into law. This would be consistent with the Catholic Church’s history of sanctuary going back thousands of years. In the U.S., the last example took place in the 1980s when some parishes provided assistance to Salvadoran refugees. It’s unlikely that Catholic priests will be prosecuted for helping immigrants because the Senate will almost surely not go along with the House immigration bill, which is easily labeled anti-Christian and against the spirit of America as a country of immigrants. Sadly, most of the members of Congress who voted for the bill would probably call themselves Christians. Yet, they didn’t think of asking themselves how Jesus would have dealt with the situation. Mahony did consider what Jesus would do. He plans to speak more on the issue and will write elected officials like California’s own Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who opposes a guest-worker program except in the area of agriculture. Cardinal Mahony has a strong voice as the religious leader of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest in the nation, with 288 parishes and 5 million members. Yet Mahony will be attacked by those who see him as lacking moral authority, pointing to his weak hand in dealing with the Catholic priests’ sexual-abuse scandal. But Mahony has a history of fighting for immigrants’ rights. He opposed Proposition 187, approved by California voters in 1994, which denied benefits to undocumented workers. Mahony lost in that case, but he really won. When you’re fighting for the weakest members of society, Christ is standing next to you. The only outcome is victory. Domenico Maceri teaches foreign languages at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, Calif. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE‘Mame,’ ‘Hello, Dolly!’ composer Jerry Herman dies at 88160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!