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Somos America / We Are America Coalition

July 28, 2008

Most Reverend Gerald F. Kicanas, D.D.

Diocese of Tucson
111 South Church Ave
Tucson, Arizona 85702

Dear Bishop Kicanas:

Your Excellency, I am contacting you as the elected leader of Somos América/We Are
America, a broad, Phoenix-based coalition of community organizations that focus on
immigrant, civil, and human rights. Several member organizations are actively providing
humanitarian assistance to our migrant brothers and sisters in our southern desert.
Members of the Somos América coalition have asked me to represent them in contacting
you in reference to the human and civil rights crisis that has been escalating specifically
in Arizona.

Many of the coalition’s members claim a Catholic faith life, and are deeply appreciative
of the materials that you have contributed to in the past, such as the Pastoral Letter on
Migration that you co-signed with the other Arizona Bishops, and more recently, the
USCCB effort on Faithful Citizenship.

Bishop Kicanas, these words are deeply meaningful to people who live their lives as
Catholics, and more broadly to people who live their faith traditions holding human
dignity as core to their beliefs. Yet, most people of faith have felt let down and
abandoned by their high-ranking religious leaders when the words do not specifically
address the local lived experiences that church-going families have here in Arizona, and
faithful migrants have in their efforts to trek our deserts to support their families.

PO Box 15363 • Scottsdale, AZ 85267 • (602) 263-2012

Members of our coalition ask: What is dignified about children being held at gunpoint by
Border Patrol Agents? What is dignified about families being rent in the name of Law
Enforcement? What is dignified about living a life of fear to the level of being unable to
report crimes inflicted with impunity upon hardworking people of faith? What is
dignified about a legal permanent resident of the United States being told by hospital
personnel that he will be sent to Mexico unless the family agrees to disconnect him from
life support because he has no health insurance? Your Excellency, these are daily
occurrences in the lives of people of Hispanic descent in this state, and they only touch
the surface of examples of the current assault on Human Dignity that are excused as basic
law enforcement and being “tough on crime.” Your people are suffering, Bishop, and
according to the writings in “Welcoming the Stranger in America”, the People of Faith
who follow you are called to respond:

“Some of them came with proper papers, others did not. Whatever the case, the
Church has always felt obliged to extend a warm welcome and helping hand. We
have no less an obligation in 2007. We cannot forget Jesus’ words (Mt 25:35), “I
was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

“John Paul II spells out the kind of attitude we should have towards these recent
arrivals (Ibid.), “Migrants should be met with a hospitable and welcoming
attitude, which can encourage them to become part of the Church’s life, always
with due regard for their freedom and their specific cultural identity.”

“What we are dealing with here is more than a matter of justice, even though it
certainly is that. It is also a matter of love. No man-made law, [emphasis added]
no circumstance, no custom can excuse us from the obligation to love our
neighbor, whether the neighbor is a Samaritan or a Hispanic, whether he speaks
our language or not. The demands of Christ’s call to love our neighbor are great

Bishop Olmsted’s booklet, “Catholics in the Public Square” talks about how people of
Catholic faith are called to live a different life – even public life – than the status quo.
Yet, some of the most prominent voices in Arizona public life claim membership in a
Catholic Church and act directly against the teachings of the Catholic Church. Please,
Bishop, your voice is needed to call this behavior out and decry it. Your faithful are
hurting in the wake of such hypocrisy: they are afraid to go to Church; they are afraid to
go to work; they are afraid to seek medical care for their family members; they are afraid
to take their children to school. Your voice is needed in our midst, not only to comfort
the afflicted, but to afflict the comfortable.

PO Box 15363 • Scottsdale, AZ 85267 • (602) 263-2012

We, as a coalition, live with and respond every day to our neighbors who suffer, making
every effort to ease their pain. We invite you to join us in a meeting with some of the
most devastated families in the Valley. Perhaps by gathering with them face to face and
hearing their stories, we could hear in response your pastoral leadership according to the
tradition of Father Kino’s Good News for the people of this region as stated on the
Tucson Diocese website: “from which people could demonstrate their care and love for
one another in the example of Christ providing a safe haven when violence threatened.”
Violence threatens our brothers and sisters on a daily basis and on many levels. We
would gratefully hear your leadership in decrying all of this violence and calling for
treating all people whose journeys intersect with our own with dignity and respect.

Most Respectfully,

Héctor Yturralde, President

Somos América/We Are America Coalition


PO Box 15363 • Scottsdale, AZ 85267 • (602) 263-2012