Mahony said he was concerned that “voices that are very much anti-immigrant, mostly in California and Los Angeles, are catching fire,” but didn’t name any particular group. On Tuesday, Mahony criticized the Minuteman Project and other anti-illegal-immigration groups, arguing that their efforts were misguided and wouldn’t solve national security issues. “The War on Terror isn’t going to be won through immigration restrictions,” he told the Los Angeles Times. Minuteman co-founder Jim Gilchrist accused Mahony on Wednesday of pandering to Hispanic immigrants, and said the cardinal’s stances encouraged illegal immigration. “Cardinal Mahony must be part of a lawless group,” said Gilchrist. “The church has no business messing in the rule of law.” Cardinal Roger M. Mahony called on Roman Catholics on Wednesday to embrace immigrants regardless of their legal status, criticizing what he said was increasing hostility toward the nation’s bulging undocumented population. The cardinal also said he would tell priests to defy any law enacted that would try to force churches and other organizations to determine the legality of immigrants before giving them assistance. Mahony, a longtime advocate of immigrant rights who oversees a racially diverse archdiocese of more than 4 million people, used Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season to urge Catholics to “make room” for immigrants. “Unless you are a Native American, everyone in here is the son or daughter of immigrants,” said Mahony, speaking during Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. As the illegal population balloons, now an estimated 11 million people, most of whom are Hispanic, the debate on how to deal with the phenomenon is intensifying. Anti-illegal-immigration groups regularly stage protests at day-labor sites where Hispanics wait for work, threatening to report employers who hire illegal immigrants. Immigration advocates have responded, staging counterprotests and organizing campaigns against legislation to crackdown on illegal immigrants. Mahony told those attending Mass on Wednesday that he was not in favor of “unfettered immigration,” but that the current system was inhumane and inefficient. Mahony said stringent laws and government bureaucracy meant immigrants were often separated up to 15 years from family members trying to immigrate. “We need reform that looks to family unification,” he said. “What we have now is broken and invites violation.” Reflecting positions of the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops, Mahony said reform had to include a guest-worker program and the legalization of undocumented immigrants. Mahony said the church’s stance was not political, but he made reference to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, which is slated to take up immigration reform this week. During an interview with Spanish-language press afterward, Mahony vowed to instruct priests to disobey any law requiring churches and other social organizations to ask immigrants for legal documentation before providing assistance. Such a provision was in the immigration bill passed by the House of Representatives in December. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!