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March 23, 2006



"pressure on government services because of undocumented workers"

That's a biggie and sets up a real problem of meeting the needs of American citizens versus those who come here illegally.

I am very sensitive to this issue, being an immigrant myself but the standards were very different when my family came here. My parents were fortunate in that they were educated and spoke English well enough but we still had to have people vouch for us and my father had to have proof of waiting employment.

I realize only too well that many Mexicans and Latin Americans, exploited by their own governments, didn't have the advantages my family had. But the sober fact remains that many of them aren't paid nearly enough by the business sector to get ahead and will ultimately end up needing assistance from a very strained government purse. Agri and other big business has almost set up a feudal system of fiefs and lords in their greed to make every more money at the expense of the workers and society.


Good grief, I've been reading "The Wizard of Id" too much. I meant "lords and serfs" not "lords and fiefs."


Greg Popcak

Perhaps I am mistaken, and I'm sure the good people here will enlighten me if I am, but it is my understanding that the Church is objecting to the perception that priests would be obliged to report the illegals they assist with social services and spiritual care.

As such, the burden of illegals on government services isn't a factor. If the bishops would go so far as to advocate against any laws addressing illegal immigration, they would be going too far. But it is my understanding that this is not the case. In fact, as NRO notes, Mahony has even praised previous legislation tht responded to illegal immigration. It would seem that the bishops object to the perception that the state would oblige them to be informants.


I am sure you are reading what the fine folks at dotCommonweal are say, in particular here:


And what it's going to be like for the lawyers in this country (some of my best friends and relatives) who volunteer in free legal clinics, where half the clients are illegal immigrants!


Well, we can all be grateful that Hillary Clinton has come out on the side of the angels (i.e., the bishops). The proposed law "is certainly not in keeping with my understanding of the Scripture because this bill would literally criminalize the Good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself," she said.

Now that the bishops have called for civil disobedience against it (when did they ever do that for laws that required Catholic hospitals or employers to pay for abortion or contraception? regarding abortion clinics?), I guess we know where their priorities lie. And we have a Big Moral Issue that the Demos can use as leverage against the Repubs insistence that they represent the Moral High Ground.

After all, if civil disobedience against the law is appropriate, then voting for it must surely be grounds to deny communion to anyone who votes for it or any candidate who supports it. Right?


If what NRO is saying is correct, then I agree.
However, I don't think NRO is giving us the whole picture.

The problem is that the language of the Bill as I've seen it posted several times here is quite vague. If the issue is really about the definition of "assistance", then amend the bill to protect the rights of all charitable organization to provide essential needs to anyone, including undocumented immigrants. If Republicans want the support of the US Bishops, and are insistent that the Church's rights are not in danger, then amend the bill to reflect that.

Simple, right?

Bill Logan

For those who don't wish to wade through Amy's previous posts on the subject, here is the relevant language of the bill in question (H.R. 4437, section 202, amending I.N.A. section 274, to be renumbered as section 274(a)(1)(C)):

Whoever . . . assists, encourages, directs, or induces a person to reside in or remain in the United States, or to attempt to reside in or remain in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such person is an alien who lacks lawful authority to reside in or remain in the United States . . . shall be punished as provided in paragraph (2).

The bold face elements are the most obvious changes from the current wording of the statute (I.N.A. section 274(a)(1)(A)(iv)). The proposed mental state required for the offense is also somewhat different and broader than the current version, but it cannot be easily shown through a boldface style since it has been entirely rewritten. If you wish to look at the entire text of the bill, I recommend the Thomas website.

Quite simply, if you know (or should know) that a person is in the United States illegally and you give them any assistance that allows them to remain (or attempt to remain) in the United States, you have committed a federal felony. Social service providers, religous, and clergy often do know the immigration status of people they deal with.

I do not dispute that this provision of the bill is aimed at those involved in the smuggling process. What I do dispute, most vigorously, is any suggestion that this provision of the bill is limited to those involved in the smuggling process. There is absolutely no such limitation in the language of the bill. You would have to place your trust in the whim of a government official not to prosecute you for a humanitarian action that comes under the clear language of the bill.

Note that this a felony offense. Also note that if you commit this offense, any property used to facilitate the commission of the offense can be forfeited to the United States.


The whole "assistance" debate, while relevant to the church and other groups that help immigrants, is not the harshest aspect of this bill from the point of view of the immigrant.
The bill makes it a crime to *be* an undocumented alient the U.S., and prescribes a *mandatory* prison sentence for anyone convicted of coming back into the U.S. after having been deported.
Scenario: Juan, an illegal, goes back to Mexico to see his sick mother. He has a wife in the U.S. and two children, both of whom are U.S. citizens because they were born here. On his return, he is captured. He is deported. He tries to come back again (his family is here!) and caught again. Now he is thrown into prison.
Is this the kind of America we want?
"I was a stranger and you separated me from my family and threw me into jail."


Re the needs of agri-business, one should not
underestimate the need for migrant labor stimulated by agricultural subsidy. Part of that giant sucking sound one hears is illegal
migrants coming north to meet the needs of economically unsustainable agri-activity.


And for those of a conservative political bent: I would submit that the GOP lost the Hispanic vote forever in California with those nasty propositions that were put to a vote. And with that, they lost the chance to ever take California. Now they're going to try to lose the Hispanic vote nationwide. I imagine they will succeed! (They don't call them the Stupid Party for nothing!)
The Hispanics are here to stay: I would submit that their presence will enrich this country and save if from terminal demographic decline of the sort they are experiencing in Europe. You can either adapt to them and accept them, or reject them. But if you reject them, you have not made them go away: You've simply ensured that say, when you try to put together a pro-life electoral force, they will not be on your side because you rejected them.
The choice is to be decent and humane or to be harsh and vindictive. Should be a no-brainer for any Catholic, and I'm surprised that there's any debate on the bishop's stance in these quarters.


Whatever "assists" might mean, the law can certainly not reasonably be said to penalize "even minor acts of mercy like offering a meal or administering first aid," much less offering the sacraments to aliens. None of these things can be reasonably said to "assist" a person to remain in the U.S., as though an alien would flee the country if s/he had not been provided with first aid. The law might be understood to penalize finding housing for known or possible aliens. But so what if it does? Do all the aliens in the world have a presumptive moral right to housing in the U.S. that negates any contrary civil law? Maybe people who do this should go to jail. At least such a law would not seem to be intrinsicly immoral.

Tony A

NRO is showing it's cafeteria leanings again.

Ramesh Ponnuru's counter-argument to the good cardinal archbishop is entire unconvincing. I know an immigration lawyer at Catholic Charities and he says the same thing as Bill Logan above. They are horrified, and scared of the consequences for themselves. Ponnuru's argument seems to be basically that we should trust the common sense of prosecutors and judges. I don't think so. I know of one case where common sense clearly did not prevail. An illegral immigrant informs on some traffickers, and some women are rescued. What happens to this hero? He is turned over to immigration, and deported. His lawyers lost the case. Now, you would think that getting people to come forward to stop the grave evil of human trafficking is something that should be supported, and something consistent with common sense? Support Cardinal Mahony on this issue.


Unlike abortion, or sodomitic adoption or euthanasia, there's nothing in the letter of this law at odds with natural law. What's given above is an interpretation of the law, which extends "assist"ing, "direct"ing or "encourag"ing to include humanitarian aid. I don't think anyone could sustain such an intepretation.

If that were the case, feeding prisoners of war would be sedition, and humanitarian aid to victims of war would be the same.

No one thinks that.


al says that there is nothing opposed to the Natural Law in this law, and I tend to agree. So aren't the bishops immoral for stating that clergy can or should disobey this proposal should it become law? We do, after all, have a moral obligation to obey all legitimate civil laws.


The specific points, it seems to me, that are being glossed over

This is where I think we are getting off track. We should not be focusing so much on specifics, but should be stepping back and first taking a more general approach, which is also the more proper approach from the perspective of the Church's teachings.

The specifics in this case are "immigration to the United States." Well, the Bible and conciliar documents and other teachings of the Church are not limited to the United States (in fact, I'm pretty sure the Bible doesn't mention the U.S. at all).

The real questions, from a Catholic perspective, are much broader -- what are the obligations of the receiving country (whatever country it may be), of the country of origin, of the migrating person, of the migrating person's family, and many others. Sure, a bunch of folks, cardinals included, are saying a lot of things about the obligation of the U.S., but is the obligation of European countries receiving (Muslim) immigrants any different? What were Middle East Christendom's obligations in the 7th Century toward Muslim immigrants (invaders) then? What are Mexico's obligations with respect to receiving immigrants from Central America? What are Mexico's obligations with respect to the people migrating from that country? Does the Mexican government have any obligation to improve conditions there so that its people will want to stay?

Or are we to have one set of Catholic teachings for the United States, one set of teachings for Central America, one set of teachings for Europe, one set of teachings for Africa, etc.? (which is to be expected from the erroneous concept of a national church) What we need is ONE TEACHING that applies everywhere and anytime. What we are getting is moral relativism.

John B

WRY. as someone who grew up in California, I will tell you that the near unrestricted immigration to the state since the mid 70s has degraded the standard of living and has hurt the poor who are US citizens more than any other group. I have seen first hand what once were solid working class neighborhoods constiting of anglos and 3rd and 4th generation Mexican-Americans become urban neighborhoods in full decline, I saw first hand how industry after industry that became dominated by illegals have wages stagnate if not go down outright, and I have seen first hand how this flood of illegal aliens dramatically drove up rental prices in even neighborhoods with urban decline. Where is the justice in that? The only people this insanity helps is the elites in both the US and Mexico.

As I told another poster in another thread, if you think this amount of immigration is going to revive, much less enrich the church in the US, the stats fly in the face of it, with low weekly church attendance rates(yes Spanish masses are packed, but that is because there are fewer masses in Spanish, but in terms of raw numbers , quite a few more Hispanic than Anglo Catholics. This again reflects how Mexico was, and in many ways still is a very strongly Anti Clearical state). I think people need to back away from slogans and images of the statue of liberty, and wake up to cold reality.

Lastly WRY, why should we have to adapt? Illegal immigration is illegal, while its common, its still illegal, using your "logic", do we have to adapt to illegal drugs as well?

Fred K.

Amy, I appreciated your summary of the multiple aspects of this issue. I would add one more group that benefits from illegal immigration: companies that have come to depend upon the buying power of undocumented workers:
Business Week May 2005


Bishops or priests who 'willfully and knowingly "assist [illegals] to REMAIN..."' is a far cry from 'Bishops or priests who hand out a meal or a drink of water--or even a place to sleep.'

Mahony is a phony, and the USCC lawyers are blowing smoke up someone's ...ah....nostrils. US Attorneys have better things to do than bed-checks in church basements.

Flagrant and frequent assistance of illegals will get what it deserves. Jail time. End of conversation.


I am still waiting and waiting and waiting for our "concerned" bishops to call on Pres. Fox and his government to end the monopolies in Mexico that would go a long way toward making Mexican society economically viable for the Indian majority.

The same people who can go from poverty to home ownership in the US in less than a decade could do the same in Mexico if the racist policies and corruption and monopolies were ended.

The blind eye and "welcoming the stranger" attitudes pushed by our elites give a safety valve to Mexican politicians -- they don't have to reform their own society to deal with the unemployment and lack of opportunity in Mexico.


Whatever provisions are enacted into law, it will ultimately be what the Supreme Court says it is. In the meantime, both sides will continue to "have at it" in the legislative and, perhaps, in the law enforcement and judicial processes. Regardless, I would hope that all persons of good will (especially Catholics here) will place traditional Christian teaching about love of neighbor ahead of any attempt to "crack down," if such comes to pass, on people trying to help others in need of food, clothing, health care, or shelter. Our faith obligations must take precedence over civil/criminal law if "push comes to shove."

Bill Logan

People seem to be reading into the proposed legislation all sorts of qualifications that aren't there. The legislation doesn't require a certain quantum of action for you to fall under its terms. The legislation doesn't exempt certain classes of persons, e.g. persons working for religious or humanitarian agencies, from its coverage.

The question is, if you know or should know that a person is in the United States illegally, are your actions with respect to that person assisting them in any way in their remaining or attempting to remain in the United States?

Is the statute really that broad? By its plain terms, yes. Should the statute be that broad? No.

Do you think that a government official wouldn't prosecute a person, priest, clergy member, religious, or aid worker for a certain action? Do you think that the government has better things to do than such a prosecution? If so, you are making an argument for prosecutorial discretion (i.e. "Trust the government not to overreach in any way"), not an argument that a certain action isn't covered by the plain terms of the statute.


So, would the bishops accept a Rule of Construction within the base text of the bill? That would solve their problems, but would they accept it? Nope.....

BTW, where is their representation? They employ several lobbyists. They are absent in epresenting the Bishops, or proposing ANY alternatives. Thanks, Frank Monahan, thanks Mike Hill.

This is simply a grandstanding technique of the Bishops. If they were really concerned about avoiding certain outcomes, they would propose explicit alternative language AS ANY OTHER GROUP DOES WHEN THEY DON'T LIKE THE LANGUAGE. They REFUSE to do so.

The real issue is that they have a problem with anything that addresses immigration.

Bill Logan

Papabile, as many other groups do, their proposed alternative is an entirely different piece of legislation (in this case, S. 1033/H.R. 2330).


From my reading on this I think Bill Logan hits it right on the head in his first post. The bishop of brooklyn has also come out very strong against this house version of the bill and even the NY Daily News editorial strongly supported the bishop. they also focus on all the fallout from the 'assist' phrase of the proposed law.

perhaps this is not rooted in a philosophical understanding of natural law, but it is good to remember it was the samaritan who understood who is our neighbor, he didn't learn it from revelation (like the ones who passed by) but from a form of natural law, common sense.


I think John B. hits on a point I can identify with.

What he describes in California I have been through in Virginia. Without getting into the gory details (and they are gory) I sold my townhouse in VA b/c of my neighborhood becoming one that was at least (within 2 years of my buying a townhome there) 90% dominated by illegal immigrants. The gory details are a result of poverty (tell me again why below minimum wage jobs benefit illegals).

There is a bit of a scam going on and it has a direct impact on us all. Schools have become daycare centers (ask the teachers I knew where I used to live) where forged birth certificates are used to put children in kindergarden who are 2, hospitals are maxed out b/c ambulences is used for ear infections, neighborhoods are decimated by MS-13 (were it not for my dog I'd be a goner now b/c of one of them), slums are created by overcrowding caused by low wage pay and the necessity of packing illegals into homes, because of overcrowding, completely unsanitary conditions result including roach infestation and, bottom-line, illegals don't marry b/c they can get free medicade from the state and welfare; this does not help illegal immigrants - it creates a permanent state of welfare slavery. It's a nightmare situation and I lived it. I am now renting.

If I were in Mexico or El Salvador I would do the same thing. I'm totally sympathetic on that point.

I don't believe the law was aimed at people providing food and shelter and if the law is inadequate, it should be (and apparently is being) challenged. The Church should not be forced into being a turncoat, ever.

But the reality of the impact of illegal immigration on this country, especially the crime problem, is a real FACT. It needs to be addressed.

More importantly, open borders leave us vulnerable to terrorism. I lived in NYC during the first WTC bombing and was standing a block away when it happened, I was in DC in 2001, and since then my building was anthraxed and I was locked in while Fairfax County figured out if I and others needed to be decontaminated.

So I find Cardinal Mahoney's protestation to be hollow. If he wants to challenge the language and intent of the law, then do so. But he went to such dramatic lengths and didn't address the problems that occur with illegal immigration, so that I can't take him seriously.

If the Cardinal is serious, he should live through what I did including the neighborhood problem and the direct terrorist attacks.

Please, don't get me wrong. If someone needs food, I'll give it, even if I have to go hungry, and I did do this in my old neighborhood. But, there are real problems that go along with illegal immigratiion and the welfare of those who are citizens count also.

Please forgive me if I am emotional in this post, but people tend to talk about this issue when they have no experience with the reality on the ground, and it bugs me.


Bill Logan

Some seem to think that the bishops only want to see this legislation (H.R. 4437) be defeated. Not true. The bishops are urging that alternative legislation (S. 1033/H.R. 2330) be passed instead of H.R. 4437. This is hardly a do-nothing position.

If you have not already done so, please look at the USCCB's Office of Migration & Refugee Policy's webpage on Comprehensive Immigration Reform instead of simply excoriating "the bishops" or "Mahony."

Questions addressed on that page:

Do the U.S. bishops support any particular legislation to repair our broken immigration system?

Do the U.S. bishops oppose any immigration legislation which has been introduced in Congress?

Why is the Catholic Church involved in the immigration issue?

Does the Catholic Church believe in “open borders?”

Does the Catholic Church support illegal immigration?

What enforcement measures would the USCCB support?

Will a new legalization program simply lead to more illegal immigration?

Is not an “earned legalization” another term for “amnesty?” Does not an “amnesty” reward illegal behavior and penalize those who are waiting in line legally?

Would an influx of foreign workers, including those currently in the United States, take jobs away from U.S. workers?

What about public resources? Does not increased immigration place stress on public resources?


I will start taking the Republican Party seriously on immigration when, instead of building walls on our southern border or trying to criminalize acts of charity, it starts going after its corporate sponsors who hire illegal immigrants.


John B.,
I say you have to adapt because they're not going anywhere. There are going to be no tractor-trailer trucks, buses, or railroad cars carrying millions of immigrants back to Mexico. Not now, not never. Ain't gonna happen.

If we can agree on that, then the problem becomes "what to do." And here the church has recommended a sane and humane alternative: guest worker status, essentially.

And everything they say now about Hispanics was said in the 1800s about Irish and Italian immigrants.
It's the same old story, folks: a group comes in, they're poor and "unwashed" and they work their way up, and, come 50 years from now you will be working for them and everybody will shake their heads at the "anti-Hispanic hysteria" that gripped the country in the "old days."

Mike Petrik

I agree with much of what you say. But there is a fundamental difference between legal immigrants wanting an opportunity to assimilate as Americans (the Irish) and illegal immigrants demanding to be ackowledged as "guests."
I am pro-immigration. But I also think that laws should be respected and that inviting millions of people who are not attracted to American culture or values but only to American dollars is problematic. In addition, the welfare state makes comparisons to prior generations inapt. While I favor relaxed immigration laws, especially for Mexicans, it is necessary and fair to assign conditions and rules of engagement. I'm skeptical that the guest worker status idea is realistic in this respect.

Several of my law partners are busy representing two related businesses against criminal charges associated with allegedly knowingly hiring illegal aliens. They will be pleased to know that it is all a misunderstanding. Moreover, while the legislation's imperfect language is being debated on this thread, there is absolutely no reason to believe that the legislation's *intent* is to criminalize acts of charity. And finally, while I do not favor building a wall between the US and Mexico, I challenge you to assert a moral reason we can not do so.


From the web site, "Italian Americans and their communities in Cleveland."

"John Fiske, traveling in Italy, printed his observations that "The lowest Irish are far above the level of these creatures (Italians)".
Before a congressional committee investigating Chinese Immigration in 1891 a west coast construction boss commented that "You don't call . . . an Italian a white man . . . an Italian is a Dago."
With their numbers increasing yearly in the eastern cities, the presence of Italians took on a sinister form in the 1880's and 1890's. Pushed together in the squalor of the urban ghettos such as Mulberry Bend in New York, or the North End in Boston or the West Side near Hull House in Chicago, some manifestations of crime were inevitable in tenement environment.
There is no doubt some truth in the argument then stated that some Italian criminals were deportees from Italy to this country. In any concentration of thousands of people some are bound to turn to violence as a solution to economic problems. In New York City in 1914 there were reported in the papers 60 murders committed by Italians during the first 8 months of the year, including two policemen. Many if not most of the assaults were Italian-upon-Italian. Rarely did the violence spread into the other ethnic neighborhoods or into the Anglo-American sections of the city. But the impression had been made and sunk deep into the minds of concerned New Yorkers. Thus the Italian was singled out for particular abuse as a criminal. Just as the Jew was stereotyped as a "shylock" and the Irish as a "drunk" so the Italian was stereotyped as the "genuine Italian bandit, black eyed and swarthy, and wicked . . . with rings in his ears . . ."
One author had gone so far as to state that most Italians were so dependent upon the padrone who furnished the jobs and the transpcrtation that they unwittingly were sent to struck plants! For whatever motives, innocent or otherwise, Italians soon found themselves facing hostility in the labor marketplace, a hostility which would increase yearly as with more immigration, cheaper wages were offered and accepted by these contadini.
But the most lasting and vicious image created in America is the Italian-as-criminal myth which is still part of the American perception of the Italo-American.
Typical are the comments of Professor Edward A. Ross, who stated that Italians ranked lowest in the ability to speak English, lowest in proportion naturalized after ten years' residence, lowest in proportion of children in school, highest in proportion of children at work.
Hmm - sound familiar?

John B

WRY, all strawman arguements. The culture was different back then, the Italian immigrants encouraged their children to assimilate, and also to be blunt, the Catholic church back then was far more sure on the parish and diocean level where she stood in terms of morals, also the church encouraged assimilation back then, instead of the Liberation Theology trash that is spoon feed the illegal immigrants that do happen to go to church.

Also, there was a 50 year break in immigration starting in 1924 that gave these groups 2 generations to assimilate. Again, I have NO INTENTION of adapting WRY, if they want to honestly be US Citziens, then they should be the ones to adapt. As for them going anywhere, lets just say if employment laws were enforced, they would in many cases have little choice but to leave the US.


Kathleen's comments above are spot on. Northern Virginia has numerous situations such as she describes.

Its not "xenophobic" to observe that these situations are good for neither immigrants, nor lower, and lower-middle class americans who are the ones not able to insulate themselves from these disturbances.

Forced charity is not charity.

Further, there is a disanalogy between the earlier waves of immigration and the current one. Namely, those were primarily legally administered. Ellis Island is a far cry from the Rio Grande.

Mike Petrik

We can all agree that xenophobia is bad. But your last post seems to dismiss the arguments and concerns raised on this thread as being grounded in such xenophobia. On this I think you are just being unfair, and really a bit ridiculous.


John B.
The Hispanics will assimilate, just give them time. I'm in a job with fairly frequent opportunities to go into Hispanic neighborhoods, and I don't know a lick of Spanish beyond "Hasta la vista, baby!" and that really doesn't get you very far. My solution is always to find a kid. The kid translates because he knows perfect English.
When I say adapt, I don't mean to say you have to become like them. But every immigrant group changes and transforms society to a certain extent. Hard for me to imagine life without pizza!
Point taken. But the sentiments expressed by some people in our society about Hispanic crime and lack of assimilation do sound like those discussions about Italians in an earlier time. The point I was trying to get across was that an earlier generation had the same problem with the Italians ... and the Irish ... and the Polish ... and the [fill in your own group here] - but that it all worked out in the end without having to resort to mass deportations.

Mike Petrik

"Point taken. But the sentiments expressed by some people in our society about Hispanic crime and lack of assimilation do sound like those discussions about Italians in an earlier time. The point I was trying to get across was that an earlier generation had the same problem with the Italians ... and the Irish ... and the Polish ... and the [fill in your own group here] - but that it all worked out in the end without having to resort to mass deportations."

I agree completely, WRY. The concerns over assimilation, crime, etc. are often sincere and legitimate, but they are also misinformed, especially when viewed in an historical context. The truth is that immigrant groups often (perhaps typically) present all manner of soical problems. Only a person unacquainted with American history would suggest that Irish and Italian immigrants didn't bring with them all manner of cultural, health/hygenic and criminal law challenges. These challenges were aggravated, of course, when they were greeted with a certain amount of natural prejudice and bigotry; but the key to the story is that these groups rose to these challenges and so will Mexican-Americans (and other Latinos) if we provide the right environment. History suggests that bigotry is bad, but will not prevent successful assimilation. The jury is still out on the welfare state, but early reports are at least a little troubling.


You said,
"Only a person unacquainted with American history would suggest that Irish and Italian immigrants didn't bring with them all manner of cultural, health/hygenic and criminal law challenges."
I agree completely. I think what happened in this country is that, with our current lack of interest in things historical, people forget - or don't know - that we've been down this road before.
My personal take is that the trouble we have with poor immigrants, whether it is the cost of providing services or any problems with assimilation, is the "cost of doing humanity" as the richest country on earth. In the long run, I think immigration is healthy, in part because it staves off the demographic decline of the type Europe is experiencing.

Mike Petrik

I do agree in part. But I am a lttile doubtful regarding the lesson we should draw from our own history and perhaps greatly doubtful regarding the lessons to be drawn from Western Europe.
First, prior waves of immigrants were not received by a welfare state and therefore did not impose mandatory social costs on taxpayers. There can be no doubt that the welfare state not only induces bad behavior on the part of many immigrants (this has nothing to do with racism -- the Irish and Italian immigrants of yesteryear would have gamed any system available as well) but also understandably generates resentment among the taxpayer class. In my judgment the exploitation of the welfare state phenomenon is probably commonly exaggerated, but it is quite significant nonetheless.
The lessons of Western Europe are also not very clear cut. After all, Western Europe has lots of immigrants. The problem is that these immigrants, mostly Muslim, are not remotely assimilating. The key is diagosing the reasons. Part of it, I think, is European bigotry and a sense of ethnic nationalism that is more acute and somewhat different from the American experience. But part is a welfare state that essentially prohibits the type of dynamic economies that foster new stakeholders and allow for upward mobility to develop. Assimilation will not occur in economies that tolerate a permanent economic underclass. Liberal welfare policies may be motivated by a desire to "do humanity," but they must be carefully calibrated to avoid duplicating the Western European phenomenon. Sometimes a dime plus good intentions will get us a single nickel.

Mary Ruebelmann-Benavides

It is incredible that our country has not addressed the real reason that people flock here illegally --make it easier to come here legally! I wanted to have a friend come for a 2 week visit from Costa Rica. He could not get a visa! First to even APPLY for the visa, it cost quite a bit of money, money that is hard to come by. THEN, he had to go through a process where at the the VERY end he was told, "Nope!" Why? He was 22, male, and from
Central America. It is absolutely outrageous that tupperware, jeans and tennis shoes have the right to cross borders, but a human being, especially poor human beings, do not have the right.
My husband came from Mexico. He slaved in the strawberry fields of Los Angeles and lemon orchards so that Americans could eat cheap produce. He is now middle class and educated. It is completely outrageous that people talk about how immigrants get on welfare. My inlaws are some of THE hardest working people I know. Welfare would not happen if employers PAID more.
My brother-in-law has joined an anti-illegal immigration organization. Yet, guess who was in his backyard digging his $30,000 pool? That's right. I bet those people at NRO eat vegetables and live in homes built by immigrant labor.
My guess, most of those at NRO are older white people who are threatened at the mere hint of someone with a tan, or God Forbid, doesn't speak THEIR language. I say THANK GOD my generation (I am 27) is changing! My daughter is Mexican and Gringa! Gracias a Dios!

Mary Ruebelmann-Benavides

Oh, Responding to Kathleen,

Kathleen, it seems to me the issues that you bring up are not those brought on by illegals, but rather a system of laws that have created this situation. Here is a clue. Poor, desperate people WILL CONTINUE TO COME. Every single illegal that I know hates the lying and the secrecy. The women hate to be raped on their way al Norte and they hate to leave their children behind for years. Shame on the United States Government for not allowing women and children to enter our country legally! And those of you who say that they don't respect the laws, the LAW does not allow POOR people to enter LEGALLY. Yes, we DO need immigration reform, but not how the House is doing it!


Some sort of compromise should be reached. What is interesting is that The Bishops Conference is in cahoots with the very people (capitalists)who exploit humans in order to lower labor costs.Ironically, Big Labor is also in alliance with those who people (mainly those in the GOP)who see the Border Question as not only a national secuirty threat, but a threat to our sovreignty.

Both sides from a Catholic Prespective have legitimate claims. Mexico and Central America have some of the poorest people in our hemisphere, and we as Catholics do have an obligation to be chairitable. Likewise, in light of 9/11 we cannot afford to have millions of undocumented aliens living here. We also have limited resources (Welfare and Medicaid are Federal Mandates, but are funded through payroll taxes) in which to care for them.

We are a nation of unheard of wealth. As a nation, our net assets total over 45 trillion dollars; we generate on average 1.5 trillion dollars of new wealth every year. Ulitmatly, we do have the means to democratically come up with a solution.

That said, the deployment of American soldiers to our borders in highly likely at some time in the near future. Violent gangs have penetrated many of the barrios and have moved to many suburban places like Virginia; AQ or other terror organizations would be stupid not to take advantage of this situation. Also, there have been reports of Mexican Federal Police escorting drug runners into Texas and Arizona. What would happen if they accidently came across
a small patrol of Texas Rangers or Border Police?

Both sides of this issue seem to be bent on an all or nothing approach.


Welfare - (1) Even LEGAL immigrants aren't eligible for most welfare benefits, until they naturalize - thanks to Newt Gingrich - so that argument is out. (2) When my grandparents came to America, there wasn't welfare - but there were big city political machines that gave jobs to people from various ethnic groups - which is just welfare by another name. (3) I hate that our welfare system is so ungenerous to immigrants - the only time I appreciate that ungenerosity is when ignorant people suggest that foreigners come here to live off welfare.

Assistance - This bill is a comprehensive reform of immigration law, the biggest since 1996, possibly 1986, possibly 1952. It contains literally thousands of provisions that impact on immigrants - most of them harsh and punitive. You're right, the Church has aimed its PR guns at a few issues which are not that complicated, and which form a small part of the big picture - but behind the scenes, I'm sure the bishops are making suggestions about the paragraph-level details that will ultimately make the difference for immigrants. It's frustrating to know what's at stake in the debate (I'm an immigration lawyer) and know that it's just so complicated that you shouldn't even start explaining the problem with x provision - I'm sure it's just as annoying to intelligent people who'd like to know what the fuss is really about. Such is the state of our national debate. Our laws get more and more complicated, while our rhetoric gets more and more simple.

Assimilation - If you ask me, we need immigrants to NOT assimilate - do we want them to waste their lives playing video games, surfing the web, screwing around, caring more about basketball than books (full disclosure: I spent my weekend with the NCAA), undisciplined, assuming that the world will give us whatever we need? That's what we want them to become? I worry about assimilation, about the temptations they face as they become American - away from the old ties of community, one can become wealthy without caring for the poor, loose the shackles of morality, etc. But making it all impossible to do legally only exacerbates the problem. We need to change that system.

Waiting their turn in line - The only really big issue in this debate, and it's one people do understand, is whether our system will ever change enough to give poor Mexicans the chance to come to our country without breaking the law. And let me just say - it is absolutely, absolutely impossible for a regular Mexican guy (let's say, 25 years old) to come to America to work legally. If he had a wife or parent who was an American, maybe. But someone sitting there in Mexico has no option to come here legally. There is no "line" for them to wait in. If you conclude that we need him and he needs us, you reach the simple conclusion that some lawful way of arranging the transaction should exist. And right now, it doesn't. When the speed limit was 55, of course we all broke the law. When I'm in New Mexico (speed limit 75), I notice that almost everyone doesn't. Writing laws that aren't enforced is corrosive, stupid, only hurts the conscientious, and wastes resources that could be better spent fighting real crime.

Details - What I don't like about the serious proposals is this notion that some guy with a 5th grade education is going to go online and find a job as a dishwasher somewhere. Is this for real? I mean, who really expects that to work? I do agree that unlimited and unlawful immigration probably depresses wages - but it also keeps jobs here, keeps our Social Security system solvent, and keeps our cities alive (quiz question: what major city has the lowest rate of immigration?) (answer: Detroit - the face of America without immigrants).

We could easily make an immigration law that encourages Latino kids to finish high school rather than telling them that it doesn't matter anyway, that encourages service of society through volunteering, college, etc. - if we do this right, it will lift up our society, all of us (among other things, Latinos blur race lines that need to be blurred). If we don't... oh dear. Historically, most powerful civilizations fall from their own refusal to do what needs to be done. Cutting off immigration would destroy our economy, rip the fabric of society, and help make a world where the undocumented aren't "persons." (ring any bells? the SupCt came within a vote of saying this, with regard to the 4th Amendment). It is crucially important that we get this right.

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