LOS ANGELES — A leading member of the Catholic Church has condemned a congressional resolution that, he said, further victimizes immigrants. He also took the occasion to initiate a campaign for immigrant rights.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, attacked House Resolution 4437 as “a new attack on immigrants [and} a very malicious bill that imposes restrictions and penalties on immigrants [and also] those who offer them any kind of assistance.” The resolution was introduced by Reps. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Peter King (R-Calif.) who chair, respectively, the House committees on the Judiciary and Homeland Security. The House passed the resolution Dec. 17.

The bill’s provisions include changing undocumented presence in the U.S. from a civil to a felony offense; broadly expanding the definition of smuggling immigrants to include the provision of services to the undocumented; eliminating many due process rights for documented and undocumented; involving state and local police in enforcement of immigration laws; erecting 700 miles of wall along the border with Mexico; and adding many new military surveillance systems for border patrol.

Mahony announced that “the Catholic Church and many other organizations and immigrants rights advocates … are banding together to protect the rights of all … to see that it [HR 4437] does not go beyond the Senate,” and that the Senate passes measures to increase legalization rights for immigrants.

“2006 will be a great year of struggle for the rights and dignity of immigrants … and the Church is going to step forward front and center,” Mahony said. The cardinal’s remarks came during a special mass on Jan. 14 celebrating National Migrants Week.

During the ceremony, which was attended by several hundred people, responsive prayers were presented in Thai, Filipino, Chinese, Indonesian, Arabic, Italian, Lithuanian, Anglo and Korean with the response in Spanish and English.

The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops is participating in the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, which includes hundred of labor, civil rights, faith, community and business groups. It opposes HR 4437 and supports legislation that would provide legalization of undocumented workers.