A Roman Catholic cardinal visiting Oklahoma City on Wednesday said he has high hopes that immigration in America will take top priority with President Barack Obama's re-election.
Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop emeritus of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, discussed the plight of the immigrant during a special presentation at Bishop McGuinness High School, 801 NW 50.
Mahony said he noticed that Obama, in his victory speech, said addressing the nation's immigration system would be one of his top five priorities in the next four years. Mahony said many undocumented immigrants across the country are “living in the shadows” of society, caught in our system that is broken.”
Mahony's address to the private Catholic school was one of the Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City centennial celebration activities. Mahony also presided at a special midmorning Mass on Wednesday — another Catholic Charities centennial event — at St. Eugene Catholic Church.
Tim O'Conner, Catholic Charities' executive director, told the students Mahoney's immigration presentation at the school was vital because they are the next generation of leaders.
“It's a privilege for us to talk to you because you are the ones who will carry the torch for us in the years to come and we need your help,” O'Connor said.
Part of teaching
Mahony's presentation included a historical perspective and theological viewpoint about immigration. He said aiding immigrants and refugees is part of Catholic social teaching and noted that when Mary, Joseph and Jesus fled to Egypt to escape King Herod, their flight is perhaps the perfect archetype for today's immigrants seeking shelter and a new way of life in America.
The cardinal recommended that the students ask their relatives about their own family history at Thanksgiving so they could so that someone in the family tree was probably an immigrant to America at one time.
He also urged them to write their elected officials about the need for a more effective immigration policies so that undocumented immigrants can be afforded work permits, pay payroll taxes, get an education and thus “remove fear from this large shadow community.”
Students are skeptical
One student asked what he could do to advocate for the rights of immigrant workers.
However, several other students seemed skeptical.
One young woman asked the cardinal what good would come from immigrants coming to America for employment if college graduates are having trouble finding jobs these days.
Another student asked why people would want immigrants to take “our jobs” with the nation's unemployment still high.
Mahony told them that many immigrants take low-skill, low-paying jobs that American citizens won't typically do such as digging ditches for construction projects or cleaning hotel rooms.
Another student said immigrants performing low paying jobs would most likely qualify for entitlement programs. He asked Mahony how immigrants in these circumstances would add value to the American way of life. His comments were met with applause from many students in the audience.
Mahony said undocumented immigrants cannot obtain a social security card and are paid in cash so they can't pay payroll taxes. He said they do pay other taxes such as sales taxes in the communities where they live.
After the presentation, Aimee Phillips, the school's chaplain, said the students are at an age where they need to decide upon these issues for themselves.
“I know it probably ruffled a few feathers but our faith isn't about being comfortable,” she said of some students' cynicism about Mahony's remarks.
Meanwhile, Mahoney said he was impressed with a recent senior class project that connected McGuinness students to The Sanctuary women's development center in south Oklahoma City. Seniors at the school performed landscaping and other beautification projects at the center, 2133 SW 11, a day center for homeless women. The students also held a carnival for the women and their children and raised more than $5,500 for the center through various fundraising efforts.