This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times:
As a child, L.A. Archbishop Jose Horacio Gomez traveled back and forth across the border from his home in Monterrey, Mexico, to his uncle’s in San Antonio, Texas. He made the trip so often that he hardly distinguished between Mexico and the United States.
“It was easy to cross in those times,” says Gomez, now 61, who became a citizen in his mid-40s. “I guess my first impression was that people could live in both countries at the same time.”
When he talks about the border, he slips into the Spanish slang of his childhood. He uses migra for U.S. immigration officials and mica for the old-style border-crossing cards he needed to visit his American cousins in Texas.
“I’m an immigrant myself,” he says, squinting behind his rimless glasses as he smiles.
Gomez’s two-year tenure as the leader of the nation’s largest archdiocese has been marked by a decidedly quieter and more cautious style than that of his predecessor, CardinalRoger Mahony, who was quick to chime in on hot-button issues such as illegal immigration and workers’ rights.
But in recent weeks, as debate over the most comprehensive immigration reform bill in a generation reaches a head, Gomez is taking a firm and public stand.
He has released a book that touches on his experiences as an immigrant and in an impassioned sermon he affirmed his support for the immigration reform bill, which would create a 13-year path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living in the country without legal status.
From inside and outside the Catholic Church, Gomez’s new public persona is drawing attention. Some who saw Gomez as unwilling to take on issues in the same way Mahony did are now praising Gomez for campaigning on behalf of immigrants. And many church observers see Gomez as trying to use his position as the highest-ranking Latino in the U.S Catholic Church to effect change on a deeply personal issue.
“I’m glad that he has added his voice to this dialogue,” said Jorge-Mario Cabrera of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. “When he speaks, people will listen.”
To continue reading, please see: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-gomez-immigration-20130803,0,2723888.story