As I said a few weeks ago, this immigration issue is one that screams out for honest discussion, and I am not sure we are getting there yet. The specific points, it seems to me, that are being glossed over, are the questions of what the bill in question actually says and what it would require, the pressure on government services because of undocumented workers (an issue the bishops never address) and the supply-side end of this: what agribusiness, big business and others who use undocument workers really want.
In the continuing discussion, the editors of NRO come out today, hitting hard against the USBishops:
The American Catholic bishops are waging an intense, sophisticated campaign to promote their version of immigration reform, which happens also to be big business's version of immigration reform. The campaign comes complete with brochures, a well-designed website, prayer cards, bracelets, and phony arguments.
In Wednesday's New York Times, Roger Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles made his case. He not only opposes the House Republicans' immigration bill, which emphasizes enforcing the laws against illegal immigration, but has directed the priests of his archdiocese to disobey it if it becomes law. The bill, he writes, "would subject [priests], as well as other church and humanitarian workers, to criminal penalties." He adds, "Providing humanitarian assistance to those in need should not be made a crime, as the House bill decrees. As written, the proposed law is so broad that it would criminalize even minor acts of mercy like offering a meal or administering first aid."
If the House Republicans had proposed such a bill, they would deserve to be opposed. But they have not, and Cardinal Mahony is at least uncharitable in claiming that they have. The cardinal points to a provision of the bill that makes it illegal to "assist" an illegal immigrant to "remain in the United States." (The person providing such assistance would have to know, or recklessly disregard, the assistee's legal status to have committed an offense, by the way, not that the cardinal shares that information with his readers.) That provision is directed at those who traffic in illegal immigrants. Its language largely replicates existing legal provisions that have never been applied against charitable work. The cardinal has never raised any objection to the existing law, and indeed praises it in his op-ed.