Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Immigration Reform and the Church

For the last ten week, I have been in a Spanish Immersion program. It is the equivalent of four college semesters in ten weeks. The course is put on by my department and the class is composed entirely of officers, detectives and sergeants. A number of students in the class will be going to Morelia, Mexico for an additional five weeks of immersion with more class room time and by living with a Mexican family. The police department is trying to be pro-active and train it's officers to speak Spanish because of the influx of people from Mexico and Central American who only speak Spanish.

The course doesn't stop at merely trying to teach the language but tries to teach an appreciation of the Latino culture and to help the students better understand why people are coming to America. About once a week, men were brought in from the Westside CAN Center to speak with us. Then men were illegal aliens mostly from Mexico but also from other Central American countries. Being able to speak with them not only helped us practice to our Spanish but also help us understand what these men, and their families went through in order to get here and why.

I don't think it takes a brain surgeon to figure out why they come here--the economy in Mexico is horrible and life is difficult. I personally do not blame them for doing what they have to do in order to survive. I think most American's would do the same thing if the roles were reversed. And these guys go through some hardships just to come to America to work. They leave their families for a year or more, travel for a month or so across the desert or they pay a lot of money to "Coyotes" in order to make it across the border.

Throughout the course, I became very conflicted. As an American, I feel that our borders need to be made more secure. I get angry and concerned at the resources being used for illegal aliens that our taxes pay for such as the health care system, the education system and the criminal justice system. I do think that we need to do something to stop the flow of illegal immigration. This feeling has made me upset at those who try to push for immigration reform or amnesty programs. Those who have pushed for these reforms are sometimes the bishops of the Catholic Church which has always bothered me because I try to be a faithful Catholic and loyal to the magisterium. Especially when I know that those bishops are following the precepts set out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. For example, paragraph 2241 of the Catechism says:

“The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.” (2241 CCC)

So, I'm having to re-explore my feelings to immigration and come to grips with the reality that we, as as a wealthy country, need to do something in order to help those who are only trying to support their family. Some interesting articles I've read they help me to better understand the Catholic views on immigration have come out recently. Just last week The Catholic Key put out an article on immigration reform. Also, last week in the Catholic Key Blog was an article of a speech given in Missouri by Archbishop Gomez, the successor to Cardinal Mahoney in Los Angeles. It's a fascinating speech that has many good points, although I disagree with some of his opinions. It can be found here.

I've come to the conclusion that we do need to strengthen our borders, especially after 9-11, for our own safety and to keep criminals out. But I can also see how we need immigration reform. I believe that we can help our country as well as our neighbors and brothers to the south out by allowing my migrant workers into the US. By allowing these people to be here legally we are more likely to get tax money from them. They are more likely to make money and return back to their homes and to their families. I'm not naive--I know it's not a simple issue and there are many things that need to be looked at. I'm only saying that the subject needs to be looked at with a Christian heart.

This is a difficult subject and I'm still conflicted. What do you think? Are you ready to open your mind and see that immigration reform may be helpful in order to stem the flow of illegal aliens? Are you willing to see that illegal immigration is a dangerous thing?


  1. Thats always been a tough one. Can there be a win win situation for everyone. Some have done dangerous things to get here Illeagally and thats always an issue along with so many others.Are they taking jobs away from Americans or are they doing the jobs that Americans wont do? Now that the job situation is worse how does that make Americans feel?I feel in the big picture of things we do need to take care of each other also and your right if it were me, I would probably do the same thing, No matter how dangerous, to support my family

  2. I absolutely think we need immigration reform. Yes, the borders need to be tightened, for reasons of national security. But our whole immigration system is broken:

    1. It is very, very difficult to immigrate legally from some countries, such as Mexico, due to some bone-headed quota laws.

    2. There are an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, mostly Latino, in the U.S., and there is no practical or moral way to deport them all. It would be a humanitarian crisis, would cost an unimaginable amount of money, and would disrupt society more profoundly than any mass-deportation advocate realizes. Millions of families would be torn apart—mothers separated from babies, husbands separated from wives.

    3. Consider the case of a child born in Mexico whose family immigrated illegally while the child was still a baby. The child is, in every sense but the legal one, American. He speaks English, pledges allegiance to the flag at school, watches MTV and plays games on the Wii. He takes the same high school classes—maybe even Honors and AP classes—and aspires to go to college. But he can't go to college in his home country of America. He has to go back to Mexico, the country of his citizenship even though to him it is a foreign nation. He might not even speak Spanish very well. And he has to apply to stand in line for the chance to come back to the U.S. where everyone and everything he knows are. The messed up situation of immigration in the U.S. has essentially created a person without a real nationality: he's not legally American, but he's not really anything else, either, except on paper. He is a stateless person.

    4. Blanket amnesty, in which illegal immigrants are automatically granted citizenship, is not an answer. A system like the one in the failed bill a couple of years ago, on the other hand, is not amnesty (no matter how much people call it that). It required time, money, and commitment to get legal, and even more time, money, and commitment to earn citizenship. I think it was a great idea: people value things they have to work for, and people are more likely to contribute constructively to society—and blend into a community—when they have hope.

    5. The hard fact is that the bishops are right: you can't say you follow all the teachings of Christ if you angrily reject the foreigner. That doesn't mean Christ abolished national sovereignty, but many people's opinions on the matter stem not (at least not only) from concerns about sovereignty, but from fear, anger, and jealousy. Ideas rooted in these emotions (two of which are also cardinal sins when they are indulged) can never be compatible with Christianity.

  3. It is a funny thing to think about all the issues that one must consider when being an honest-to-goodness Catholic. Immigration was never a sticking point for me but the death penalty sure was. It took a wake up call in almost being selected for a jury for an admitted murderer to make me really dig deep on my feelings versus looking into the logic of what the Church teaches is preferable whenever possible. So I can relate ...

  4. Yeah, that is another topic I've had difficulty getting behind the church on. I think many cops are pro-death penalty. . . but maybe that's a topic for another blog. :-)

  5. Every time I get angry over immigration reform, I am reminded I am here because of my Irish-Catholic great-grandfather who entered, not through Ellis Island, but across the Canadian border illegally. And then I am reminded that without the Irish and Chinese immigrants the railroad could not have been built. And when they got here they too were shunned(Irish Need Not Apply),ridiculed, and demeaned. The Church, for them, was their only "salvation" just as it is for many immigrants today. We should be taking pride in that! This place we call United States is indeed a melting pot with many UGLY stories to tell about immigration, but where would we be without it? Though I am descended from Native Americans, most of my ancestors started elsewhere...We are who we are because we did start elsewhere. Thanks be to God!!!!! Consider your roots. They really are important.

    I am always amazed at those who can so readily learn a new language. Spanish was hard for me ____ years ago! Congratulations!! Cathy


  7. Sounds like you need to be yelling at your fellow Americans. They are the ones who aren't working and trying to live off the government. Those crossing the border are they ones looking to work.
    The US doesn't have an official language and if you think about it--most of our ancestors didn't speak English when they got off the boat, the spoke German, Italian, Polish etc etc.

  8. What's wrong with Mexicans staying in Mexico and reforming that country. Why come here and raise so many gangster kids and dropouts?

  9. My parents are immigrants, too. But my dad had to serve in the US Navy in exchange for the chance to become a citizen in the 1970's. He did it legally, and proudly served the US in exchange. So, even as a Catholic, I do not have sympathy for people who are running across the border. They can go to the local US Embassy in Mexico and apply for a work visa or immigration status and wait their turn. If they are already here, they can apply to be here permanently, pay taxes, follow US laws, etc. I would love to help them in that way. And I'm also tired of my Parish telling me to donate money to the "poor immigrants of the parish" when they make more money than I do, and get WIC, free money, free healthcare, etc...

  10. Jamie, when I saw your blog, I started to read it and thought, "Yes! This is how I feel - torn between being loyal to country and being a good Christian. How to do both?

    I agree with what you pointed out from the CCC #2241, but here's the next part:

    "Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens."

    I have no problem with immigration. My great-grandparents came over from Austria on "the boat" - went through Ellis Island and all that. But they came in legally. It's the ILLEGAL aliens that I have a problem with.

    I understand many people of other countries live in deplorable conditions and they are in fear for their lives. But for those who just think they should be able to waltz in and not pay the price, no. It's one thing to come across the border with the hope of escaping almost certain death in their own country, but once here, they should be processed for legalization. Something needs to be done.

    I am not for across-the-board amnesty. To me, that's just an Obaman political ploy to ensure that he'll get votes for the next election. Besides, it just isn't right. As someone else said, they should be willing to earn their citizenship; it's a privilege, and not something to be taken for granted.

    Also, I am outraged by Calderon's insistence upon OUR immigration reform, especially when his own country's immigration laws are so much stricter. Who does he think he is to tell us what to do with our immigration laws? I had wondered about why he wants to make it easier for his people to come across the border, but I have an idea that maybe, just maybe, he thinks that it is a way for Mexico to take back the land that he probably imagines that the U.S. stole from Mexico over a century ago.

    As for the language, why should we pander to another country and adopt theirs? This is OUR country. In any other country, if we go there, they don't bow to us and try to learn our language. We are expected to learn theirs. So why should our country do less? Every country should have the right to exercise and enforce its national laws and customs.

    It's hard. I want to get involved in my parish's blossoming Hispanic ministry (I know a little Spanish and I also am an ESL tutor), but my feelings on the subject are torn so that I don't know what's really right... Sigh... Our pastor keeps asking us to fill out cards for immigration reform, but I have yet to discover just what that "reform" entails.