- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 1, 2006

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles said yesterday that he would instruct his priests to defy a proposed federal law that would bar churches and others from giving aid to illegal aliens.

The U.S. House of Representatives included that ban in an immigration bill passed last year. The Senate Judiciary Committee is to begin marking up another immigration bill this week.

The legislation also would penalize social organizations and charitable groups that aid illegal aliens.

When asked whether he would be willing to go to jail for the stance, Cardinal Mahony said “yes” because “helping people in need were actions that are part of God’s mercy.”

Cardinal Mahony — one of the most liberal U.S. Catholic prelates, who oversees an archdiocese of more than 4 million people — used Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season yesterday to urge Catholics to “make room” for immigrants.

“Unless you are a Native American, everyone in here is the son or daughter of immigrants,” said Cardinal Mahony during Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

Cardinal Mahony told those attending Mass that he was not in favor of “unfettered immigration,” but that the current system was inhumane and inefficient. He said stringent laws and government bureaucracy meant immigrants were often separated up to 15 years from family members trying to immigrate.

“We need reform that looks to family unification,” he said. “What we have now is broken and invites violation.”

U.S. Catholic bishops support a guest-worker program, legalizing undocumented aliens and more visas for migrants’ families.

Cardinal Mahony has long advocated for immigrant rights and opposed the 1994 state proposition that tried to deny public benefits to illegal aliens. The proposition was approved by voters but struck down by federal courts as unconstitutional.

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