Last weekend, various Catholic Churches distributed “Justice for Immigrants” regarding U.S. immigration “reform”. It is unclear who is responsible for composing and distributing the materials, although there is a prayer included “from the Interfaith Immigration Coalition.”
Just who are the members of this “Interfaith Coalition?” And why should I pray their prayer? For all the hoops people need to jump through to distribute materials against the intrinsic evils of same-sex marriage, abortion and contraception (even EWTN materials have been rejected in some churches), it seems rather strange that these materials have no contact information or identification of authorship. Website? Phone number? Address? No to all three.
The first paragraph mentions that the “Church” advocates for “immigration reform”, without mentioning which Church. The remaining three points do specifically mention the Catholic Church; i.e. why the church cares about immigration policies, whether or not the Catholic Church supports illegal immigration and whether or not the Catholic Church supports “amnesty.”
Biblical Quotes in Context
While there are two biblical quotes in the first paragraph, they are meaningful but taken out of the total context of biblical references to treatment of strangers in our midst. Generally the word does seem to be applied to foreigners, although 3 John 1, 5-6 refers to the “brethren receiving hospitality”: “Beloved, it is a loyal thing you do when you render any service to the brethren, especially to strangers, who have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey as befits God’s service.”
The Old Testament quote given on the “immigration” reform materials is to Leviticus 19:34, “to treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you.” Other Old Testament quotes shows one of the two sides of treating the alien as also reinforcing the need of the stranger to obey the laws of the land in which he lives, and to be responsible for himself:
- Genesis 23:4 in which Abraham, a stranger, insists on paying his own way for a burial place for Sarah rather than demanding a handout from the owners of the property.
- Exodus 12:48 is regarding circumcising those seeking to be assimilated into the community: “And when a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it.” Does immigration reform imply a need to accept the God upon Whose laws the country was founded? To renounce Sharia Law and all actions permissible under it, but outlawed in the host country?
- Leviticus 16:29: “And it shall be a statute to you for ever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves, and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you….” What demand does this place on the stranger to conform to practices and customs of the host country? Does it require having the ability to “press 2” to be understood? To skip paying taxes? Free healthcare?
- Leviticus 17:12: “Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood.” Isn’t it reasonable for a prospective host country to refuse admittance (or continuing residence) to anyone who breaks or has broken the law? Why not?
- Leviticus 18:26: “But you shall keep my statutes and my ordinances and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you.” How far is it reasonable to insist on aliens changing their own practices to conform to the host country? Removal of burquas and head covering for security screening? Not blocking streets for worship? Performing military service? Learning the language?
- Proverbs 11:15: “He who gives surety for a stranger will smart for it, but he who hates suretyship is secure.” Isn’t “immigration reform” giving up part of our own country, so is the right to require repayment of all taxes, interest, and costs of maintenance a rightful demand?
- Proverbs 20:16: “Take a man’s garment when he has given surety for a stranger, and hold him in pledge when he gives surety for foreigners.” Should those who agitate for “immigration reform” pledge something of themselves to guarantee performance? Is the Church willing to give up donations in order to have them routed to care of immigrants?
It would seem only fair in using a single verse from the Old Testament to justify the position on the “Justice for Immigrants” flyer to also look at other quotes which require the stranger to abide by all the laws of his host country. Most exiles from Israel were forcibly removed from their homeland, not freely choosing to migrate. Such exile was often a punishment, not a reward. It seems as if even Mary and Joseph, fleeing with the Baby Jesus to Egypt, at least had, in the gifts of the Magi, resources to provide for themselves.
The single New Testament quote used on the flyer is Matthew 25:25, God’s reward for those who
welcomed the stranger. There is indisputable merit for each of us to see Christ in every single person. But this teaching is given in terms of the Judgment, of each individual’s treatment toward every person. It is not an exhortation to government, or to groups, or about tax rates and migration. It is one-on-one that we are judged, and there are many opportunities in life to welcome a stranger. It is not a call to corporate action. There are few quotes in the NT on hospitality to the stranger, but there is still the warning to beware of the stranger, mention in John 10:5, contrasting the Good Shepherd to the hireling or thief: “A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” The flock has a reasonable basis to fear the ‘stranger.’
Two verses out of context do not, of themselves, make the point which the anonymous author of “Justice for Immigrants” seeks to impose. Rather, they raise concerns that there may be other over-simplifications or misleading statements in the materials distributed. And there are, indeed.
Points of Concern
The immigration problem is a prudential judgment issue for Catholics, even though the USCCB call it: “Church teaching on migration and immigrants”. Yes, our consciences should be well informed, and we should carefully discern, but the anonymous author of the Justice for Immigrants flyer makes some points which I am not personally prepared to accept, even if from the USCCB, even under biblical disguise. Here are a few issues based on the language presented:
- Illegal Aliens: There is much language which tip-toes around the fact that many of the 11 million “undocumented people” are illegal aliens. However, the “be nice” language proposed does not change reality; i.e. “Let’s stop using that dehumanizing term [illegal] for our brothers and sisters.” Well, many absolutely ARE illegal, having entered by a variety of subterfuges (not through the main gate of the sheepfold, but over the fence, so to speak), mis-representing themselves, and cutting ahead in line of those patiently waiting to follow the legal procedures. These illegal aliens compete for jobs which others need to feed their families, make it harder for older members of the workforce to find jobs, and put enforcement officers at risk. They ARE illegal aliens. Period. And I, for one, do not intend to change my language to obfuscate this reality.
- “Immigrant workers without documents are vulnerable …they need a way to regularize their status to avoid being exploited.” Isn’t entering a country illegally and taking jobs away from those who are here legally an example of exploitation by the very people complaining about being exploited?
- “Young people…brought to this country as children…deserve the chance to receive an education and reach their potential….” What about the people whose place they take in colleges and universities? What about students whose parents scrimp to send them to college and pay the bill at the risk of their own retirement? What about those deserving of scholarships who will be passed over? What about students taking on enormous debt to educate themselves? What about the inequities and unfairness created by trying to give more to those who snuck into the country? Who should be paying for their education when their family income has been “off the books”? Or “under the table”? Perhaps those who have employed illegal aliens at discounted pay, uninsured, should pay? This simplistic statement on the “Justice for Immigrants” handout makes no proposal how to handle justly.
- “Legitimate security concerns of our nation?” While the flyer has a throw-away half sentence mentioning the “legitimate security concerns of our nation,” it offers no recommendation of how this will be achieved. Rather, on the USCCB website, it calls for “Abandonment of the border ‘blockade’ enforcement strategy.” What are we to think this means with respect to safe borders and the protection of our border patrol officers and the safety of surrounding communities? The write-up mentions $18 B for border patrol. Clearly it is not enough, nor is any proposed legislation that doesn’t protect the borders of our sovereign nation. While we live very near a border in our own area of the country, the problem in upstate New York is not nearly so great as along the southern U.S. border. Unless we have lived there, or communicate with family and friends living there, we have no idea what it is like to be in an unsecured area, with drug traffic, gun running and more, and little federal protection. Those who sit complacently in the northeast dictating “Justice for Immigrants” ought to walk a few miles in those shoes. Or sit at home wondering if one’s border patrol spouse is going to come home that night? The handout we received in church mentions “death of thousands of migrants [no reference given.]” It doesn’t mention the deaths of our border enforcement officers, but rather the “cost” for border security. We know that one side of the aisle sees immigration reform as absolutely tied to safe borders. The proposed petition is silent on safety.
- “Our nation’s economy demands foreign labor, yet there are insufficient visas to meet this demand….” Tell it to those who have lost jobs due to illegal aliens willing to work for lower wages in a shadow economy. The sentence itself is a non sequitur. There are many ways to use foreign labor if it really is needed, and most don’t require visas. Many large companies have foreign manufacturing sites, for example, which also have their own set of problems. But it is unreasonable to imply that a visa bottleneck justifies hopping the border illegally. If it were a true visa bottleneck of needed workers, a reasonable alternative would be to open the visa gate. The real issue no one seems to want to touch, Bishops included, is that we wouldn’t have a laborer shortage if 50 million Americans hadn’t been killed in the womb.
- “…face interminable separations…[from families] of twenty years of longer….” This is not a new situation, and it is often a choice for financial reasons. Many cultures (including grandparents and great grandparents of those alive today) came to this country to make money, return home, and take care of their families. (While the cause may be about money, that of course does not mean there aren’t still people fleeing persecution and that is, of course, an exceptional circumstance in the U.S., but documentable for exemptions.) When do we advocate holding people responsible for their own actions? Who made the decision to jump the border in the first place?
- Low skilled workers: Also slipped into the petition are the words to address “the root causes … such as…economic disparity,” sounding more like handouts than hand-ups? The petition states that the family is a “cornerstone” of the immigration system (so, will single people be discriminated against?) and calls for providing legal paths for “low-skilled immigrant workers to come and work in the United States.” Why would immigrants at other skill levels be discriminated against? Such wordings, if not intended, then are very naïve. But it cannot escape note that aligning the USCCB’s intervention to “low-skilled immigrant workers” also aligns their goals closer to those of the Democratic net for new voters. These words on the petition to Congress absolutely and unashamedly align with the Democratic agenda.
Catholic Bishops’ Proposal Faulted
The petition calls for the signer to agree with the Catholic Bishops. So, visit the USCCB site and the “Justice for Immigrants” proposal:. http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/justice-for-immigrants.cfm There are a number of points of contradiction between the USCCB proposal, the backgrounder distributed, and even the petition to Congress.
The backgrounder distributed last week denies that the proposal is for “amnesty,” but their definition of “amnesty” is debatable; i.e. “implies a pardon and a reward [sic] for those who did not obey immigration laws….” Check out the dictionary definitions; I don’t see the word “reward” used at all. Rather, what the bishops seem to be proposing fits fairly well the dictionary definitions of amnesty. They like to call it “earned legalization.” But it IS Amnesty.
The Bishops’ “earned legalization” is a can of worms, and the essence of being misleading. At its heart, on this backgrounder, the writers call for some hurdles to be jumped to “lead to permanent residency.” Fast forward to the petition to the Congressman, and note the words “provides a path to citizenship”. Residency and Citizenship are NOT the same thing; the wording blurs the line and misleads voters. Won’t many more people object to citizenship? Is the word “residency” supposed to soften the blow and build consensus?
The entire petition is prefaced with the words “I agree with the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that now is the time to pass just and compassionate immigration reform.” Why, after 11 million illegal aliens have entered the country, do the bishops think that “now is the time?” And that we are now supposed to agree with them? Where was their voice when border patrol officers were being killed, schools were pressured to teach other than in English, and government offices were becoming bilingual? NOW is the time? Further, how can anyone sign this petition unless the full USCCB position is first known and accepted? There is a disconnect between what the petition says, and what the backgrounder implies, and what the Bishops’ say on the USCCB website.
See “Justice for Immigrants” at: http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/justice-for-immigrants.cfm
I am concerned that the “JFI campaign” is not only misrepresenting its advocacy for illegal aliens as Church teaching rather than as a matter of prudential judgment, but that it has highly manipulative primary objectives: “To create political will for positive immigration reform; to enact legislative and administrative reforms based on the principles articulated by the bishops; and to organize Catholic networks to assist qualified immigrants obtain the benefits of the reforms.” I can’t imagine these words in Christ’s mouth; it sounds more like a Marxist community organizing event.
A further cause of concern is that these recommendations are based on a decade-ago “pastoral document” between the Bishops of the U.S. and of Mexico. It called for a scenario which might well be attractive to a Mexican push to get rid of the most unwelcome residents in their own country (aka: open the borders!) The following is from the USCCB site, calling for:
- A broad based legalization (permanent residency) of the undocumented of all nationalities;
- Reform of our family-based immigration system to allow family members to reunite with loved ones in the United States;
- Reform of the employment-based immigration system to provide legal pathways for migrants to come and work in a safe, humane, and orderly manner, and;
- Abandonment of the border “blockade” enforcement strategy.
- Restoration of due process protections for immigrants.
One of my long time concerns about “staff work” in the Church is that it seems to be a mix of incompetence and manipulation, of financial naivete and cleverness. Outside of faith and moral teachings, I’m never sure what I can trust and what I can’t, which leads to trusting only what I can verify. Is the lack of alignment between the flyer, the petition and the USCCB website just a series of errors? Or is it a flagrant couching to the ears of the audience?
The flyer in the pews of the church which I attended referred to petition cards to be signed, “which will be hand-delivered to Rep. Chris Collin’s [sic] Geneseo office.” However, that church is located within Rep. Tom Reed’s district. Why are these cards being solicited for another Congressman? Republican Tom Reed has the 23rd Congressional District, and Republican Chris Collins is the representative from the 27th Congressional District. Democrat Louise Slaughter from the 25th District is not mentioned.
It seems that the USCCB has turned from the traditional Catholic service commitment of building schools, hospitals, churches and orphanages for the immigrant, to telling everybody else what to do, lobbying the government, and spending tax dollars, It’s a sad state of affairs. But there are other damages not so visible:
- Every tax dollar taken out of someone’s pocket to pay for government mandated programs is one less dollar available to be directly donated to such programs. Administration costs of government (aka “make work programs”) waste resources better used for real benefits.
- Mandatory taxes to be spent at government discretion cripple charitable giving and the soul which benefits from his/her generosity to God.
- The target group for the Bishops’ bestowing of our funds is a group which generally is FAR better off than people in need in many other countries. Consider the stories of “The Church in Need” and of the voice of modern martyrs. Food stamps and wide screen TV’s are a long way from the plight of Haitians, Syrians, and the Church in Sierra Leone, for example. Would we be guilty of being bad stewards of what God has given us, to support those who are so much better off, even though in need?
- Why do the Bishops prompt programs that divert funds to many who are not of our Faith, or who are even of no faith, when our own Christians are in so much need and we are called to witness to the world “how these Christians love each other?”
- The coziness of the USCCB with aiding U.S. government objectives takes away its objectivity, and compromises the Church for further persecution. It is fair to ask “If the Bishops had been stronger against universal healthcare mandates, would our consciences be so at risk today?”
- It would truly be ironic if fighting to “normalize” immigrants so they can stay in the U.S. turns into accommodating them into a country fast losing its values, and entrapping souls. One need look no further than President Obama’s trip to Africa in which countries like Ghana and Kenya stone-walled against his push for abortion and homosexual marriage. Better to be poor in the flesh, but safe in the soul.
- God truly does work in mysterious ways.