A Roman Catholic bishop and two parish priests on Saturday called on hundreds of people gathered at a church near Olvera Street for a Mass in celebration of the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe to adhere to a higher law of "Christ and humanity" and oppose the Immigration Reform and Control Act.
The 9 a.m. Mass at Our Lady Queen of Angels (La Placita), Los Angeles' largest Latino parish, commemorated the second anniversary of the parish's pledge to provide sanctuary for Central American refugees.
In its commitment to help "all those who have no rights," this year the parish will also provide sanctuary for undocumented workers who do not qualify for amnesty under the 1986 immigration law, church officials said.
Law of 'Human Dignity'
"The first law is the one of human dignity," Father Luis Olivares, pastor of Our Lady Queen of Angels, told a press conference after the Mass. Also attending the press conference was Father Mike Kennedy, another parish priest there who called the immigration law "flawed moral policy."
"Human and Christian laws are superior to any laws in society," said Bishop Gilberto Chavez, auxiliary bishop of San Diego who presided at the Mass. "It is not our intent to break the law. Our intention is to be human and Christlike, and through that accidentally we violate the law."
Three hundred people signed a "pledge of non-cooperation" in which they promised to hire workers regardless of their legal status, encourage employers to hire the undocumented, support employment for non-qualifying workers and help those suffering because of the immigration law with food, clothing and shelter.
Copies of the petition with a statement urging modification of the law will be sent to legislators, Chavez said.
"This is a sign of real love and concern," Chavez said. "The 300 people who signed are expressing their love for the undocumented who cannot receive amnesty and who are suffering a lot because they have no home and no rights."
Under the immigration law, which went into effect last May, undocumented workers can receive legal resident status if they can prove they have been in the United States since at least Jan. 1, 1982.
Chavez reiterated the position taken during a conference of bishops on Nov. 19, which expressed opposition to military aid in Central America and supported efforts toward negotiation and peace in conflicts there.
Mireya Lucero, an El Salvadoran woman who attended the press conference as a representative of repopulated communities in El Salvador, thanked the local Roman Catholic community for its protection of Central American refugees. More than 300,000 Salvadorans are estimated to reside in the Los Angeles area, the largest number outside their homeland.
"Your support will help us search for peace," she said.