The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is encouraging celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12 as a day of solidarity with immigrants. Dozens of events based on that theme are being held around the country.
It’s a good time to recall that Our Lady of Guadalupe is not only the patroness of Mexico, homeland to the largest U.S. immigrant group, but also the patroness of all the Americas—patrona de todas las Américas. Or as Pope Pius XII declared in an October 12, 1945 radio message, the patroness of the holy faith “en Méjico y en todo el continente americano.”
Yes, it’s a special day for Mexicans, one that touches the place in a country’s soul where religious cult meets culture. But it’s also a day of unity for all Catholics of the Americas. Pope Francis struck that theme in a “message to the Americas” in St. Peter’s Square on the eve of the feast in 2013:
When the image of the Virgin appeared on the tilma [cloak] of Juan Diego, it was the prophecy of an embrace: Mary’s embrace of all the peoples of the vast expanses of America—the peoples who already lived there, and those who were yet to come. Mary’s embrace showed what America—North and South—is called to be: a land where different peoples come together; a land prepared to accept human life at every stage, from the mother’s womb to old age; a land which welcomes immigrants, and the poor and the marginalized, in every age. A land of generosity.
It is a generosity we in the United States don’t seem especially inclined to extend, whether to human life at its earliest stages or to unauthorized Mexican immigrants who encounter a legal system in which they can be jailed without a lawyer to represent them and held for months, if not years. Mexicans, according to a leading study, are the least likely of the major immigrant groups to have a lawyer help them navigate notoriously complex U.S. immigration laws. The study by Ingrid Eagly and Steven Shafer of UCLA Law School, published in 2015 in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, found that just 21 percent of Mexicans had representation in cases decided from 2007 to 2012. They were followed closely by Hondurans (23 percent) and Guatemalans (30 percent). In contrast, 92 percent of Chinese immigrants had lawyers.