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LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 13: Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez speaks during a news conference after celebrating the midday Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in recognition of the historic selection of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina as pope on March 13, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th Pontiff, the first non-European leader of the church in more than 1,000 years, will lead the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
A piecemeal approach to immigration reform may get some support from U.S. Catholic church leaders, but Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez is clear on where he'd like to see the line drawn.
In an interview with KPCC Tuesday morning after a meeting organized by Town Hall Los Angeles, a nonprofit discussion forum, Gomez stressed that any alternative to a sweeping immigration overhaul must include a path to U.S. citizenship for unauthorized immigrants.
"Because if not, we are going to perpetuate this underclass that we already have, and that is not part of the American dream," Gomez said. "I think our founders wanted equality for everyone, and if we don’t allow the immigrants to apply for citizenship, they are going to be a permanent underclass.”
Gomez, a native of the northern Mexican city of Monterrey whose family also has deep roots in Texas, has become an increasingly vocal supporter of immigration reform since taking the reins of the L.A. Archdiocese in 2011.
During his speech Tuesday, he reiterated a theme he’s discussed lately: That immigration reform is a human issue before it is a political one.
But a political issue it is. House Republicans have resisted a Senate-approved bill with a path to citizenship, favoring smaller, more limited bills. President Obama and some advocates have said they’ll consider separate bills, so long as they meet key reform objectives.
Gomez said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has its own immigration policy campaign, will have to weigh what new proposals come to light.
“It depends on what those different proposals are, and we can study the matter," Gomez said. "But we’d really prefer comprehensive immigration reform.”
House GOP leaders are planning to release a set of immigration reform principles later this month.