WASHINGTON (October 17, 1997) -- With a focus on new immigrants from Latin America, the Chairman of the Bishops' Committee on Hispanic Affairs has issued a statement commemorating October's Hispanic Heritage Month and the Día de la Raza.
Addressing his statement to the Hispanic community, Bishop Gerald R. Barnes of San Bernardino (CA) said the Bishops "share your hope of overcoming the discord and prejudices that exist between persons of different races and national origins in the United States. ... We stand together with you in a spirit of celebration, hope and solidarity. We celebrate the many blessings God has given this great nation through the presence of the Hispanic/Latino community...."
In expressing his solidarity, Bishop Barnes acknowledged the widespread fear within the Hispanic immigrant community in the United States which has resulted from the sweeping changes in Federal immigration law and state public assistance laws in recent years. He complained that "new immigrants have been used as scapegoats for political reasons and portrayed as a social burden invading this country. This portrait does not address adequately the complexity of the issues and denies the values that gave birth to this nation of immigrants."
He said, however, the increasing number of Hispanic immigrants who chose to become naturalized citizens is a source of rejoicing and essential to overcoming discrimination, prejudice, and racism.
"We applaud the emergence of Hispanic chambers of commerce, political and labor organizations, and media efforts to serve the Hispanic community," Bishop Barnes said. "These projects strengthen Hispanic families and promote their healthy integration into American society, thus enriching it."
He invites all members of society to enter into a "respectful dialogue" on immigration, poverty, and other public policy issues confronting the nation. Recalling the stern admonition given by Pope John Paul II during his 1995 visit to the United States, he said our country must not become "less sensitive, less caring toward the poor, the weak, the stranger, the needy."
"We want to renew our commitment in solidarity with you, our immigrant brothers and sisters," Bishops Barnes said in conclusion. "We commit ourselves to continue defending your right to attain a dignified and happy life for your family; to reaffirm your presence among us as a blessing; and to recognize your past, present, and future contributions to the life of faith in the prosperity of this nation."