Mexicano to become next Archbishop of LA

Pope Benedict XVI named José Gomez the co-adjutor archbishop of Los Angeles.  The 58-year-old Gomez, who currently serves as the Archbishop of San Antonio, Texas, now becomes the official successor to Cardinal Roger Mahoney when he turns 75 next year, the mandatory retirement age for archbishops.

You can read the LA Times story here.

The appointment of Gomez is already being lauded as a momentous day in the LA Archdiocese, since the Mexican-born priest becomes the first Latino to hold such a high position in the region since 1846 (the Spanish-Mexican era).  As the Times writes, his appointment “was apparently a nod to the demographics of Los Angeles, where Latinos form a large part of the overall population and especially of the region’s Roman Catholics.”

Gomez is a conservative priest; he is a member of Opus Dei and received his current appointment near the end of the papacy of John Paul II.  Pope John Paul II made a record number of appointments to the Church hierarchy in his final years, most of which involved conservative advocates in the Church.  He increased the size of the College of Cardinals (the body who chooses the pope) and, in the case of the U.S. Church, made key appointments to major Archdioceses.  Gomez’ new appointment continues this trend.

If you are Roman Catholic and Latin American, then the appointment of Gomez is, I suppose, a momentous occasion.  In a city like Los Angeles, where the Mexican (and Central American) population is a definable sector of the city’s economy, society, culture, and, well, everything, then this kind of  recognition is fitting.  It is especially noteworthy that it comes from an institution that has struggled to meet the culturally-specific spiritual needs of the people it serves.  (All previous Archbishops of the LA Archdiocese, proper, have been European or U.S.-born whites.)

But there are other forces involved here, too.  Los Angeles is an immigrant city, making it one of the epicenters of US Catholicism in the 21st century.  As the US Catholic Church continues to lose its hold over the US faithful, the immigrants who revitalize our economy and society also do the same for the church.  The appointment of a mexicano, in particular, is a clear attempt to make immigrant LA feel more welcome and at home in the church.

But immigrants are not loyal Catholics without limits.  One of the major trends facing the Catholic Church is the growth in Latino immigrant Protestant sects and established Protestant Churches who are making major inroads in their recruitment of the Spanish-speaking.  This is an ages-old problem in the Church, one referred to as “Protestant leakage” in their U.S. historical records.  The appointment of Gomez is also a clear attempt to stem this tide, and reaffirm the place and position of the Catholic Church in Latino America.

Only time will tell if they are successful, though I personally think the cards are stacked against them.  With the scandal of protected pedophilia plaguing the Church now, this is a critical moment in its North American history–a time without comparison.  Out of this moment of crisis will come a reshaped Church, one likely even more immigrant-dependent than in the past.  But the ultimate question is the extent to which it will be adversely affected by these scandals.

Border Blow Back

The Immigration Policy Center recently published the findings of their current study of illegal immigration at the border.


On the heels of the Department of Homeland Security’s release of figures showing “apprehensions of undocumented immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border are at their lowest level since 1973,” the IPC findings suggest the scope of the impact the current economic depression is having on immigration.

Most powerfully, they document a “reduced circularity in migration,” that is, a reduction in the return migration of unauthorized immigrants already in the US.  They explain this phenomenon as an “unintended consequence” to present-day border enforcement tactics and strategies.

You can read the full IPC “Fact Check”–“Keeping Migrants Here: The Unintended Consequences of U.S. Border Enforcement”–by clicking here.


Kids at Texas labor camp (1942)


“Boys sitting on truck parked at the FSA … labor camp, Robston, Tex.”
Photographed Arthur Rothstein, (1915- )
(January 1942)

Photograph is part of the Library of Congress collection available online at the LOC flickr page.

Courts Leave Arizona’s Immigration Laws Alone

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to hear any challenges to Arizona’s state laws penalizing businesses who “knowingly hire” undocumented or unauthorized workers.

Here are the few details from the Arizona Republic:

In September, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law in ruling that the state could suspend or revoke the business licenses of employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers.

On Monday, a larger sampling of 9th Circuit judges declined further review of the case.

Arizona’s employer-sanctions law took effect in January 2008. To date, no employers have been prosecuted under the law.

Opponents of the statute – including the Arizona Contractors Association, Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Chicanos Por La Causa – remain hopeful that it will be struck down. They point to employer-sanctions laws in other states that await court rulings regarding their constitutionality, and a possible future appeal of state-imposed immigration laws to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The opinion of the court can be downloaded here.

The plaintiffs had argued Arizona’s laws violate federal laws by going further in penalizing employers than IRCA does, and by compelling businesses to use the E-Verify system (even though federal laws make it an option only). They also argued these laws have the potential to cause discriminatory hiring practices.

The court didn’t disagree as much as they emphasized the appeal was really based on supposition, since no actual discrimination is being alleged and no employer had been deprived of their state license under the law.

They did say there was no overstepping by Arizona regarding the compulsory use of E-Verify, despite its persistent problems.