Members of the Catholic Church in California have come together to help legal residents in the state to apply for a U.S. citizenship. Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles said that this campaign will resonate Pope Francis' homily during the mass he held in Juarez, Mexico.
For the campaign, a summit was held at the Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, Orange County. It was attended by the representatives from different parishes and other church leaders including Cardinal Roger Mahoney.
Currently, California has around 2.4 permanent residents who are now eligible to apply for citizenship. These are once refugees who fled from their home countries in search of better lives. The religious leaders noted during the summit that as long as these people are not legal citizens, they will not be treated the same way as the other residents. Also, the opportunities available to them that can help them improve their lives are limited because of their current status.
"People think they're going to go back to their countries when they retire," Father Sergio Ramos of the St. Vincent de Paul church in Huntington Beach said according to the OC Register. "But it's hurting them. They are not helping themselves or their communities."
"Without citizenship, they cannot become engaged as citizens," he added. "They have no rights. It's time to create awareness."
Through the campaign, the non-profit organization Catholic Charities will carry out various programs to help eligible residents. These include assisting them in filling out the necessary forms and documents as well as waiving the $680 application fee for the citizenship test.
According to Archbishop Gomez, the move is very similar to what Pope Francis was calling for during his visit in Mexico earlier this month. As noted by the pontiff, the refugees have become targets of those who would like to enslave and exploit them. He also reiterated that this issue can be resolved once government officials begin to recognize migrants based on their names and backstories and not as just mere statistics on a report, the Catholic News Agency reported.
"We have to keep concentrating on the human face of immigration reform: the names, stories, the families," Archbishop Gomez said. "Mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. We need to show that these faces today are no different from the generations of immigrants that came before."