The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Houston’s clergy back immigration reform

In a show of solidarity, religious leaders in one southern city are speaking with one voice on the subject of immigration:

The Rev. John W. Bowie knows it is hard to sell the people in his neighborhood on the idea that they should support changing immigration laws to give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. His church lies in one of the oldest black settlements in the city, where unemployment is high and many people see immigrants as competitors for jobs.

Yet there he was in the pulpit at True Light Missionary Baptist Church on the Fourth of July, with a full choir behind him, urging his flock to support an overhaul of immigration laws that “lets the undocumented come out of the shadows.”


“All 13 colonies were made up of illegal aliens because they had not gotten permission from the residents here, who were the Indians,” he said. “Then a few years later, they brought us here and made us illegal, too. These immigrants, we immigrants, have built the greatest nation in the world, coming from everywhere, all over, because, you see, nobody owns this world except God.”

All over Houston, in an unusual display of ecumenical solidarity on an explosive issue, scores of pastors, priests, rabbis and ministers used their sermons on Independence Day to promote the cause of fixing a broken immigration system.

The coordinated effort was part of a broad-based campaign begun in January by an interfaith group, the Metropolitan Organization, to lobby Congress to pass an immigration overhaul package this year. The group has collected 12,000 signatures to be sent to lawmakers and has organized workshops to persuade churchgoers to support their effort.


On June 22, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the head of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, made a strong appeal in a letter to the priests in all 150 parishes to address the question in their sermons this weekend. Later, the leaders of the Methodist, Episcopal and Lutheran Churches made similar requests of their ministers. Some Jewish leaders have also joined the campaign.

Many clergy members say they face an uphill battle with their congregations, some of which tend to be conservative on social issues and regard immigrants without visas as lawbreakers. Their effort has also drawn fire from right-wing talk radio hosts.

“It’s not like preaching to the choir, so to speak,” said the Rev. James Bankston, the senior minister at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Houston, a classical stone and stained-glass church with a vaulted roof and a full pipe organ.

There’s much more at the link.

I wonder how many Catholic preachers will address this topic next weekend, when the gospel asks the timely question: “Who is my neighbor?”

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Deacon Norb

posted July 5, 2010 at 10:59 am

I’m not preaching next week-end; my pastor is. Neither of us are shy about talking about immigration reform — for a number of reasons:
–My own maternal-grandfather was an “illegal alien.” He “jumped ship” in Galveston sometime before World War I and was able to successfully blend into to the Ellis Island eastern European communities here in the Midwest — WAY before “green” cards or anything similar. In fact, he worked hard the rest of his life in fairly good paying factory jobs. He never was required to have a social security account because that idea was a full generation into the future.
–Our area of the midwest still uses farm laborers and we still have migrant camps. There is one county in our area where, in the not so distant past, migrant farm laborers would DOUBLE the county’s population every summer.
–Several parishes throughout this region have had Spanish language masses every Sunday now for over 40 years. I have proclaimed the Gospel in a Spanish language mass but my skills in that language are not good enough to prepare a homily.
–One local parish reported that in 2009, they had over 55 infant baptisms for migrant farm worker families — those ceremonies presided in Spanish by a permanently ordained deacon of Tex-Mex family heritage who still moves back and forth between the Midwest and Brownsville TX.
What is singularly odd about all of this is that, if you go back over a hundred years to when my Eastern European maternal-grandfather came into the US, there were parishes where those languages were used in liturgies, there were baptismal ceremonies done in those languages, and the workers worked hard in jobs none of the native-born workers would have evr touched. They were doo demeaning.
History has an odd way of repeating itself.

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Deacon Norb

posted July 5, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Can we base our statements on fact and not rumor?
–YES, KAT is correct in that churches in our country — OF ALL DENOMINATIONS — are exempt from property taxes. In some states (but not all) they are also exempt from Sales Taxes.
–So are other non-profit organizations (NPO’s) as well. You will find organizations like the United Way, the Red Cross, or similar NPO’s that are similarly exempt from a number of such taxes — so churches are certainly not unique in that regard.
–Churches and NPO’s , however are not exempt from paying Social Security taxes and Workmens’ Compensation Taxes on all their employees (secular as well as religious). The employees also still have to pay State and Local income taxes; and their personal share of Social Security and state and local Workmens’ Compensation taxes.
BTW: KAT, your last phrase may have violated Deacon Greg’s “Term of Service” for this blog.
[You’re right, Norb, and that’s why it was deleted. Dcn. G.]

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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted July 5, 2010 at 1:26 pm

This issue is far more complicated than simply the issue of compassion for illegal immigrants as some would have it. Legal anarchy–including murders– is working its way north from the border regions–and I don’t remember the churches in the past being supporters of anarchy. In fact states of anarchy eventually harm everyone.
An insulting term for Italians used to be WOPS. It meant “without papers.” Historically The originators of that term were Italian immigrants who came here legally, played by the rules, and were very upset at losing jobs to those who didn’t care about rules or law.
The rational, truly compassionate answer is to START clamping down on the anarchy (at least put the “coyotes” out of business), then, work on a truly fair immigration program that takes into consideration the massive unemployment (hovering around 10%) problem that bedevils our country.(And these are people looking for work, not spurning jobs they don’t want. In our area virtually all the jobs college students used to take for tuition costs are now taken by immigrants–legal and illegal.)
Funny how over the last 30 years or so when unemployment went up under a Republican pres. by only a few points the media played it like a total disaster and every other issue revolved around it. Now a Dem is in the White House and unemployment is through the roof and the media puts it behind every other issue most of the time. (I know, The Dems who have controlled Congress for 4 years and the White House for two keep on blaming Bush—never mind that the Dems have had plenty of time to put in some real jobs creating programs through creative tax cuts–as many other presidents of both parties have done in the past–and turned our economy around. But socialist thinking seems to be the order of the day in Washington.)
Is this the time to virtually open our borders???? According to some news accounts this Administration has cut funds for just about every border security program on the books. Some reports claim that even the few troops promised Arizona by the White House for border security has turned into a farce.

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Taylor S

posted July 5, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Well I can tell you this the last thing I want to hear in church is a priest or preacher babbling on about immigration reform.
NO POLITICS IN CHURCH. You guys are seriously going to chase people away from Church if you start this.

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Deacon Norb

posted July 5, 2010 at 3:31 pm

“According to some news sources. . .” OK, here’s some different sources — mopst of which I will identify.
–I just went on line and examined the web-pages for both TSA and the Border Patrol. In Fiscal 2008, there were 17,500 sworn border enforcement officers. And that was double what it was shortly after 9/11.
–On Friday June 2, I was listening when a commentator on XM Radio’s POTUS channel interviewed a senior Border Patrol official (sorry, I was driving at the time and could not write down that official’s name) who indicated that in Fiscal 2009, there would be an additional 2,000 border enforcement officers with the same number being processed each year into the foreseeable future. The reason they cannot do more is that their academy at Artesia, New Mexico is already running at full capacity.
–I know that the Border Patrol is aggressively recruiting since I see their posters on all sorts of college placement bulletin boards throughout our area.
–The web-pages also indicated that the Border Patrol was on a hiring spree not just for commissioned Border Patrol Agents but also for “Annuants” — part-time-as-needed people hired on an annual basis — primarily civilian instructors in their academy so they can move more experienced and already commissioned people from the classroom into the field as supervisors.
–The official in that POTUS interview also indicated the following: (1) Predator and Reaper drones have proven to be extraordinarily successful in tracking illegals crossing the border. These folks can be spotted almost as soon as they cross and agents can actually arrest them fairly quickly. (2) Actual arrests are running at a higher percentage than they have ever been and thus the actual number being arrested is gradually coming down. There are fewer and fewer folks attempting now to cross.
I am not in a position to accurately comment on the wisdom of using US military or National Guard forces for border security. I have to note, however, that none of those military folk — active duty or guard — are trained for that type of work and retraining them according to Border Patrol protocols would take too long and dull some of their already existing and very needed skills.
One last point. Shortly after the Arizona Law was signed by the governor of Arizona, two of its major advocates were interviewed by Rick Sanchez on his “Rick’s List” show on CNN. One of those legislators said, in so many words, that the real purpose of the law was to totally shut down any pretense of “amnesty” in Arizona. Any church or community group or even a city/town that declared itself “open” and that it was an “Amnesty Sanctuary” (thus not enforcing the state law ) would find itself in court and its resources seized. I heard that argument only once; but no retraction nor any clarification.
Are we going to see Arizona police officials violating the “declared sanctuary” of a convent or monastery ?

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posted July 5, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Although the President Obama health care reform caused great consternation, because of the drooping state of the economy. Yet illegal immigration still represents one of the most expensive issues and will remain so, until the lawmakers realize that the largest margin of patriotic people do not want any kind of–AMNESTY. But the illegal immigrant invasion is not only about the consequences of money spent to support all those who reach America, but also the underlined progression towards overpopulation. Two wars are now being fought in the name of freedom, which is squeezing tax dollars, adding to the massive deficit of 13 trillion dollars. But the never ending stream of people that crosses the border, revealing the failure of the government to halt this survival mechanism—owing to the degraded corrupt government past the Southern fence. According to the website Immigrationcounters since 2002, we have received in this country under the birthright citizenship law a 5,004.786.
That’s five million, four hundred thousand extra people, plus family members. “Anchor Babies” not only receive free prenatal care, but the mother can apply for food stamps, Section 8 housing and other welfare programs at federal, state and county level. Yet, pregnant Americans get–NOTHING–free, accept to be hunted down by unscrupulously debt agencies, or being sued in court with judgments on their home, business or even a garnishment of wages. This is just the tip of the waiting financial iceberg, whereas everybody knows that foreign labor uses stolen or fraudulent ID to get jobs and a generous source of freebies from government agencies. Anybody can see–why another AMNESTY could even be a worse criteria to every working American. It could threaten every Americans-Legal citizen’s retirement. Billions more dollars will be spent on attorney’s fees and processing to make the 20 million or more foreign national families to stay permanently. 2009, our illegal alien workers in the United States sent home $21.2 billion in remittances, providing the country with its second biggest supply of foreign currency after oil exports.
Apathetic as it may seem we cannot any longer as a nation, subsidize the poor of this world. Our country is already owned partly by Communist China and European banks, known as the Federal Reserve. We must now resolve this painful situation by ejecting all pro-amnesty incumbents from Washington, Sacramento, California and other Liberal stronghold State Capitol’s. We must start emulating Arizona policing laws, implementing a much more effective E-Verify and local law enforcement application entitled 287 (g). It is up to patriotic Americans and pro-sovereignty activists, to start determining who must be kicked out of office in November. Not just politicians such as Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), but Pelosi, Napolitano, but even Governors, Mayors and an assortment of elected city managers and officers. It is Time to discover who is—FOR– America and those who will swamp this nation with cheap labor, while our own population remains jobless. The answers are at NumbersUSA. THE ONLY CHANCE OF AMERICA HAS OF STOPPING LOW WAGE LABOR, CRIMINAL ALIENS IS TO VOTE OUT PRO_ILLEGAL ALIEN LEGISLATORS.

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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted July 5, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Deacon Norb–We have to be careful of how slippery politicians can be.
For example–by comparing “right after 9-11″ with 2008 (and not mentioning the Bush Administration) one can get the impression that the Obama Admin. was on the ball with doubling the number of border control agents. Well, I Googled: “border patrol Obama” and discovered that it was the Bush Admin. that doubled the number of agents to 20,000. In fact until Arizona blew the whistle on the complete dereliction of duty of this Administration on border issues it had planned to only have 17,399 agents and cut 384 more while also cutting hours for the agents. All the stories about adding agents, etc. seem to have datelines after the governor of Arizona courageously signed the bill to halt the immigration anarchy in her state. (Actually, wouldn’t support of anarchy be a sin??)
And one does get tired of the Orwellian speak in the biased mainstream news media where “illegal aliens” (a phrase used even in textbooks) has suddenly become “undocumented workers.”
Well, how far will it get you if the police pull you over for speeding and you don’t have a driver’s licence and you claim that you are just an “undocumented driver.”
And when was a law passed (or Church directive issued) giving any church group the right to set themselves up as exempt from the law–even in the name of “sanctuary.”
And one also gets tired of all the lies in the media about the Arizona law, especially the one constantly still repeated that it legalizes racial profiling–even though the law was specifically tailored to keep police from racial profiling.

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posted July 6, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Deacon Kandra,
When I read the comments on this thread, I am saddened.
If this is what the majority of American Catholics truly believe, then I fear there is no chance, at all, for liberal Christians, moderate Christians, indeed, any Christians to the left of Genghis Kahn to ever find the slightest ground to work together.
Just, wow.
I’m going to take a break for a while. This level of hatred (and there is no other word for it) has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with what we, as Christians, are called to do.

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