The archbishop of Miami, Thomas Wenski, has applauded Jeb Bush for saying illegal immigrants are committing an "act of love."
In an opinion piece in The Miami Herald,
the Catholic prelate says: "With one three-word phrase, Gov. Bush has helped humanize these migrants — they are human beings who love their families, just as Americans do. This runs counter to the rhetoric of many shrill anti-immigrant voices and reframes the debate in human terms.
"Gov. Bush no doubt weighed his comments before uttering them, with full knowledge of the opposition he would encounter by some in his own party. In so doing, however, he has moved the debate forward toward a just solution to our immigration woes."
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The Florida church leader has campaigned for more than three years for reforms in U.S. immigration policy, calling for the legalization of the millions of undocumented immigrants.
"Former Gov. Jeb Bush has elicited the outrage of the anti-immigrant crowd with his recent comment that crossing illegally into the United States to find work to support one's family is an 'act of love,'" he says in the Herald op-ed piece. "And, he is right. As the bishops of the Second Vatican Council taught 50 years ago: 'Man, who is the only creature on Earth which God willed for himself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of self.'
"Immigrants who endure the gauntlet of our southern border do not do so for a lark but selflessly to support their families. Their leaving home and loved ones behind certainly represents 'a sincere gift of self.'
"Indeed, surveys of migrants who have come to the United States show that the majority seek a better life for their families. In so doing, they risk life and limb, having to elude drug traffickers and other criminal elements, corrupt law-enforcement officials and environmental dangers along the way."
As many as 6,000 have died on the U.S. side of the border since 2000 alone, he says: "The decision to migrate is never taken lightly. Migrants are aware of the risks and the fact that they will be separated indefinitely from their families. They would rather remain home to support their families, but economic and political conditions force migrants to support them in another fashion, even at risk of their lives."
Bush's comment, he says, has "hit a nerve that runs through the immigration debate. Some would like to make all migrants criminals, as such proposals as the SAFE Act would do and programs such as Operation Streamline already do."
The Miami New Times
has reported that the 63-year-old Wenski , who oversees the religious life of more than 1 million Catholics in Miami, is a tea party conservative and one of his church's most influential radicals.
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