A Test for America
Book review of Immigration and the Next America by Archbishop José Gomez
Immigration and the Next America
Renewing the Soul of Our Nation
By Archbishop José Gomez
Our Sunday Visitor, 2013
128 pages, $12
As the debate about our country’s immigration situation intensifies, Archbishop José Gomez has penned a book that is timely and inspiring — and significantly enhances the conversation.
In Immigration and the Next America, my friend Archbishop José Gomez delves into immigration in a way that only he can, drawing on his own story to address some of the challenges and fears that the issue provokes. For instance, he warns that the current laws are creating a permanent "underclass" that grows every time an undocumented father is deported and his family is left behind to fend for themselves.
"We are creating the very conditions we claim to be afraid of — a generation of people who can’t assimilate and who don’t have the education and skills to contribute to our economy," Archbishop Gomez writes.
But "immigration is about more than immigration," the archbishop of Los Angeles insists. He notes that it has become a flashpoint for many of the anxieties that Americans are wrestling with, whether it be feeling threatened by unsecure borders or the loss of a common civic and moral identity. Contained within the immigration question, he says, are deeper questions about what the future America will look like, and this adds to the level of passion that surrounds the issue.
The archbishop’s book shows how the polemics that characterize the current debate are not in keeping with our founding ideals. He argues that in the decades since President John F. Kennedy reformed the immigration system in 1965, America has forgotten its roots as a place that welcomes "the unfortunate" and as a country founded on the ideal of freedom and equality under God.
Archbishop Gomez also highlights the spiritual roots of our nation. He explains how the mission of San Miguel de Gualdape was founded in present-day South Carolina in 1526, decades before the pilgrims first arrived, and how the Mass was celebrated by Mexican émigrés on our shores long before the first houses were built. In other words, Archbishop Gomez reminds us that America is first and foremost a country with a spiritual foundation that cannot be forgotten as we look to renew our sense of national identity.
Perhaps the most important insight is his belief that the challenge of immigration reform is an opportunity to work toward "renewing the soul of America"; the immigration crisis is really about the deeper worries of a country that is morally adrift. But, he writes, if we respond to this moment in history, we have a chance to launch "a new education in civic virtue and citizenship."
I highly recommend Immigration and the Next America as a guide for addressing the many issues tied to immigration and as a refreshing source of spiritual history that should inform our efforts to rejuvenate our country’s civic and political culture.
I hope and pray that every member of Congress and people of goodwill will read this book.
Archbishop Samuel Aquila is the archbishop of Denver.
- Sept. 22-Oct. 5, 2013