How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Quote of the moment: The Catholic bishops' letter to 'immigrant sisters and brothers'

An open letter signed by 32 Latino bishops in the Catholic church was released today, timed to coincide with the Dec. 12 feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

The statements made in the letter, addressed "Dear immigrant sisters and brothers,' aren't surprising in that many church leaders have long been involved in immigrant rights activism. What makes it an interesting read is its earnestness, and that it's unabashedly addressed to people who are here illegally and their families. A snippet from the letter:

"Many of you perform the most difficult jobs and receive miserable salaries and no health insurance or social security. Despite your contributions to the well-being of our country, instead of receiving our thanks, you are often treated as criminals because you have violated current immigration laws."

The letter, which calls immigrants "the revitalizing force of our country," also calls for a path to citizenship and for "a program for worker visas that respects the immigrants' human rights." In the letter, the bishops state: "We recognize that every human being, authorized or not, is an image of God and therefore possesses infinite value and dignity."

The letter wasn't greeted with enthusiasm by those advocating for tighter restrictions. Reuters interviewed Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an immigration-restriction activist group, who accused the church of using "immigration as a recruiting tool."

Among the bishops who released the letter is Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, who was born in Mexico. Versions of the letter were written in Spanish and English.

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