Via Media

Via Media


Church, state and immigration

posted by awelborn

A brief NYTimes note:

In December, after the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a tough border security bill that, among other things, would make it a crime to assist illegal immigrants, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops assailed it as extremely punitive and called on its flock to oppose it. Church officials have sent lobbyists to Congress and this month parishes sent members to rallies in Chicago and Washington to push for legislation that would legalize undocumented immigrants and put them on the path to citizenship.

Some Republicans are firing back.

In February, Representative Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican who opposes illegal immigration, took issue with Catholic bishops, among other religious leaders, "for invoking God when arguing for a blanket amnesty" for illegal immigrants. This month, two powerful Republican representatives, Peter King of New York and F. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, the co-sponsors of the border security bill, criticized the church leadership on "The O’Reilly Factor" on Fox News Channel, particularly Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, who has said he would instruct his priests and parishioners to defy the legislation if it ever became law.

Meanwhile, cable news commentators Tucker Carlson and Lou Dobbs have questioned whether the church should maintain its tax-exempt status, given its political activism on immigration. And in an interview, Mr. King accused church leaders of "committing the sin of hypocrisy" in their campaign to sway Congress and Catholic voters.

"This is the left wing of the Catholic Church — these are the frustrated social workers," said Mr. King, who described himself as a practicing Catholic. "They’re giving an incentive for more illegals to come here. I don’t think it’s right."



Advertisement
Comments read comments(24)
post a comment
Alfredo

posted March 19, 2006 at 7:17 am


The claim that Catholic opposition to federal legislation making it a crime to assist illegal immigrants comes only from “the left wing of the Catholic Church” is a piece of wishful thinking on Peter King’s part.
First of all, the call to perform corporal and spiritual works of mercy for this needy person here and now — an imperative reaffirmed so eloquently in Deus Caritas Est — is a divine imperative that transcends (or ought to transcend) political divisions.
Second, Mr. King apparently forgets that lots of us Catholic “Reagan Democrats” come from families of immigrants who are not quite as fearful of changing demographics as some of his xenophobic Republican friends are.
I do not mean to disparage laws that try to bring order and security to the current immigration mess. Nor am I arguing for “blanket amnesty.” But to turn the corporal and spiritual works of mercy into federal crimes goes beyond the pale and, in addition, overlooks the great service that dioceses, parishes, Catholic Worker Houses, etc., have been doing for our society as a whole in caring for immigrants, legal or illegal.



report abuse
 

Mike Petrik

posted March 19, 2006 at 8:14 am


I agree with you, Alfredo. But I think the problem is that there is a wing of the Catholic Church that is claiming that support for “blanket amnesty” and opposition to “laws that try to bring order and security to the current immigration mess” are in themselves works of mercy. Make no mistake: just as there are some xenophobic Americans whose opposition to illegal immigration is grounded in bigotry against Hispanics, there are also Americans who believe any attempt to actually enforce our borders is an act of meanness incompatable with Christian teaching.
I favor more relaxed immigration laws for a whole host of reasons. But I do not believe that the laws that are currently in place are inherently unjust and therefore properly the subject of civil disobedience, which is what some elements of the Church seem to be saying (although not with any clarity).



report abuse
 

paul

posted March 19, 2006 at 9:24 am


Once again the media performs a disservice by mischaracterizing the legislation. It wouldn’t be illegal to merely “assist” illegals, ie. give them food, but the law seeks to crack down on those who knowlingly try to hide illegals from authorities or provide other more serious forms of aid in their attempts to curtail immigration law. The Cardinal is correct in asserting that we shouldn’t ask for id when we’re helping others, but that’s not what the law is trying to do. I really wish people would understand this.



report abuse
 

Juli Loesch Wiley

posted March 19, 2006 at 11:44 am


Here’s an interesting quote:
“We are now one of the largest Spanish-speaking nations in the world. We’re a major source of Latin music, journalism and culture.
“Just go to Miami, or San Antonio, Los Angeles, Chicago or West New York, New Jersey … and close your eyes and listen. You could just as easily be in Santo Domingo or Santiago, or San Miguel de Allende.
“For years our nation has debated this change — some have praised it and others have resented it. By nominating me, my party has made a choice to welcome the new America.”
George Bush from a campaign speech in Miami, August 2000.



report abuse
 

Juli Loesch Wiley

posted March 19, 2006 at 12:25 pm


It’s my understanding that the Republican proposal wouldn’t illegalize any of the Works of Mercy (giving food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, etc.) Its aim is primarily to stop smugglers who provide forged and fraudulent papers, who transport, traffick, conceal and conspire in order to facilitate a criminal enterprise.
In other words: no prosecutions for Catholic Worker houses; punitive provisions for coyotes. Which is, in my opinion, the way it should be.
I’d be much obliged to anybody who could post the exact wording of the proposed legislation.



report abuse
 

Kevin Jones

posted March 19, 2006 at 1:55 pm


“Meanwhile, cable news commentators Tucker Carlson and Lou Dobbs have questioned whether the church should maintain its tax-exempt status, given its political activism on immigration.”
Whoa, isn’t only lobbying for particular candidates or parties excluded for religious non-profits? It’s not particularly reassuring that IRS threats are bi-partisan.



report abuse
 

jtbf

posted March 19, 2006 at 1:59 pm


Juli:
The bill is here: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h109-4437
I believe the section you want is 701 forward; scroll down once you get on the page.
If not, there is a table of contents at the beginning.



report abuse
 

jtbf

posted March 19, 2006 at 2:13 pm


The whole section is about hiring and employing – NOT about giving someone a sandwich or a glass of water, as Cardinal Mahoney alleged. The only part I see (and I could have missed something) that could apply to the Church is the building of shelters to facilitate illegal employment. But it refers to “business entities” which I don’t think the Church is regarded as being.
SEC. 708. EXTENSION OF PREEMPTION TO REQUIRED CON-
5 STRUCTION OF DAY LABORER SHELTERS.
6 Paragraph 274A(h)(2) of the Immigration and Na-
7 tionality Act (8 U.S.C. 1324a(h)(2)) is amended–
8 (1) by striking “imposing”, and inserting a
9 dash and “(A) imposing”;
10 (2) by striking the period at the end and insert-
11 ing “; and”; and
12 (3) by adding at the end the following:
13 “(B) Requiring as a condition of con-
14 ducting, continuing, or expanding a business
15 that a business entity–
16 “(i) provide, build, fund, or maintain
17 a shelter, structure, or designated area for
18 use by day laborers at or near its place of
19 business; or
20 “(ii) take other steps that facilitate
21 the employment of day laborers by others.”



report abuse
 

Mike Petrik

posted March 19, 2006 at 2:36 pm


“Whoa, isn’t only lobbying for particular candidates or parties excluded for religious non-profits? It’s not particularly reassuring that IRS threats are bi-partisan.”
Kevin is right. But don’t assume that talking heads like Dobbs and Carlson have any clue about the law. As a tax lawyer, I am confident that the IRS pays these folks no mind.



report abuse
 

Dave J

posted March 19, 2006 at 6:36 pm


An old lesson renewed, before you take a position on anything the MSM covers, get the facts.



report abuse
 

Juli Loesch Wiley

posted March 19, 2006 at 7:30 pm


Thank you, jtbf.
I read the whole section on prohibited activities, and they all had to do with aiding and abetting unlawful border crossings, smuggling and concealing people illegally entering this country. It was clearly directed at coyotes, human traffickers. Following this was the section on penalties, which included the following:
“A person who violates the provisions of paragraph (1) shall– except… in the case where the offense was not committed for commercial advantage, profit, or private financial gain — be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or fined …”
As I read it, this specifically exempts from prosecution those who “aid” illegal immigrants for humanitarian reasons.
I think the widespread anxiety within the Churches about prosecutions of charitable agencies, is unfounded. And I wonder if some activists have latched onto this as a scare tactic?
Somebody correct me if I’m wrong.



report abuse
 

Bill Logan

posted March 19, 2006 at 7:55 pm


Actually, Cardinal Mahony has a good argument. People who assert that he is wrong about the potential effects of this proposed legislation are simply mistaken.
The legislation is H.R. 4437 (109th Cong.). The applicable part is section 202 (“Alien smuggling and related offenses”) in Title II (“Combatting Alien Smuggling and Illegal Entry and Presence”), NOT any of the sections in Title VII (“Employment Eligibility Verification”) as was suggested above.
Section 202 amends Immigration and Nationality Act section 274. One of the amendments would punish anyone who:
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.
(Proposed I.N.A. section 274(a)(1)(C).)
The terms “assists” and “remain in” would be a new addition to this statute; the current version of this statute (I.N.A. section 274(a)(1)(A)(iv)) applies only to a person who “encourages or induces” an alien to “come to, enter, or reside in” the United States.
Thus, under the proposed legislation, if you know that a person is in the United States illegally (and many priests, religious, and social service providers will know that), and you give that person any aid whatsoever (including a sandwich, a glass of water, or a place to sleep), you are assisting that person in remaining in the United States. And you would be committing a federal crime.
Provision of the sacraments to a person you know to be an illegal alien would also be assisting or encouraging them to remain in the United States.
Certainly one purpose of the proposed amendment is to crack down on people who smuggle others into the United States, but nothing in the language of the proposed amendment limits it to just that.



report abuse
 

Bill Logan

posted March 19, 2006 at 8:12 pm


As for the section on criminal penalties that Juli is referring to, that part does NOT exempt humanitarian or charitable motives, it just gives people who have those motives a lesser penalty. The proposed Immigration and Nationality Action section 274(a)(2) has six different subparagraphs.
Proposed subparagraph (A) in that section provides that where the offense was not committed for commercial advantage, profit, or private financial gain, then the maximum term of imprisonment is 5 years. The reference to subparagraphs (D) through (H) at the beginning of subparagraph (A) provide an exception to the 5 year maximum term of imprisonment. Under subparagraphs (D) through (H), if certain other conditions apply (e.g. the alien was a terrorist, or you create a substantial risk of death, or if you actually cause someone’s death), then the minimum penalty is 5 years imprisonment and the maximum penalty is death.
So, in a case where the offender acted from humanitarian (non-profit) motives and none of the subparagraph (D) through (H) conditions apply, the proper way to read proposed I.N.A. section 274(a)(2)(A) is:
A person who violates the provisions of paragraph (1) shall . . . in the case where the offense was not committed for commercial advantage, profit, or private financial gain, be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or fined under title 18, United States Code, or both.



report abuse
 

mayangrl

posted March 19, 2006 at 8:23 pm


SEC. 274. (a) CRIMINAL OFFENSES AND PENALTIES.–
PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES.–Whoever–….
knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact
that such person is an alien; assists, encourages, directs, or inuces 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;
Well, that’s a pretty blanket statement, no? If Catholic Charities helps someone find housing, is that “encouraging” them to reamin in the US?
Has anyone even looked at the USCCB’s website to see what they say?
And for Peter King to say it is the “left wing of the Church” doing this is idiocy. He obviously has not read what the bishops have said and why. Talk about Cafeteria Catholics: “when the bishops reflect what I like, then they are good; otherwise they should shut up about things of which they know nothing.”



report abuse
 

John B

posted March 19, 2006 at 9:27 pm


I understand the church has its mission, and immediate aid to someone in immediate need, such as food and medical is part of the churches mission.
That said, this is an issue that the USCCB is not correct on. The USCCB doe snot take into account the fact that illegal immigration has hurt US Citzens that can least afford to be hurt, the poor, and also the church seems to let off the hook, the elite of Mexico that created the rotten economic conditions there. I agree with Rep. King that many involved with church organizations are fustrated left wing social workers.



report abuse
 

Jimmy Huck

posted March 19, 2006 at 10:34 pm


The proposed legislation is reminiscent of the time when giving shelter, food, and drink to runaway slaves was a crime. Have we regressed so?



report abuse
 

John B

posted March 19, 2006 at 11:04 pm


Yes we have regressed Jimmy, because the mindset of many, if not most employers who hire illegal aliens is that of the plantation owners. They want to employ desperate people to make their wallets fatter, and take away bargining power from US citizens. Illegal i mmigration is one big reason why unionization efforts are so futile now, since it has allowed many unions to be broken up . Yes we have regressed Jimmy, but not in the ways you think.



report abuse
 

P.W.

posted March 19, 2006 at 11:10 pm


You know, some of the alleged “criminal”‘s crimes – these so called illegal immigrants are as petty as crossing the boarder to do work that Americans wouldn’t do.
Like it or not, our economy would collapse without illegal labor – be it sweatshops overseas or illegal migrants from Mexico or points further south. They work for pennies on the dollar, the least we can do is give them a modicum of safety and security whilst they toil to provide us with the lifestyle we enjoy. Bravo to those who would goto jail for helping those in need. I’m currently working with a sister city project in Mexico. People willing to work should be able to come and work. We produce enough to feed our nation with a surplus surely we can feed more. These people need our help.



report abuse
 

Whitcomb

posted March 20, 2006 at 1:10 am


The Catholic Church has no moral obligation to play the role of snitch when the government authorities come calling to ask if so-and-so is illegal.
If you disagree, then I ask: How far are you willing to go in requiring the church to become the agent of the state? Would you compel Cardinal Mahony to ask for someone’s papers before he distributes the communion wafer? Would you enforce a summons on a parish priest to reveal the secrets of the confessional?



report abuse
 

Roger

posted March 20, 2006 at 3:05 am


Whitcomb:”The Catholic Church has no moral obligation to play the role of snitch when the government authorities come calling to ask if so-and-so is illegal.”
That’s a straw man. The Church DOES have a moral obligation to refrain from undermining the lawful exercise of maintaining the security of our borders by those authorized to do so. This is acknowledged in our Catechism.
As for “communion wafers”, this is another straw man. The only thing you are asked is if you accept that this is Christ’s body; where you live or if you are travelling through or even if you are in a state of sin, would never be asked. Ridiculous and blasphemous, really, Whitcomb, for you to suggest that the law would call for that.



report abuse
 

WRY

posted March 20, 2006 at 7:59 am


Boy, they’d sure shake their heads at this Bush-voting, pro-life “left-winger” opposing this immigrant legislation!



report abuse
 

john

posted March 20, 2006 at 10:15 am


First of all, thanks to Julie, jbtf and Bill for some clarity on the actual legal specifics. Its good to discuss based on fact.
I admit that I’m a bit torn on this issue.
One thing is clear, any legislation that prevents the Church from preforming corporal or spiritual works of mercy is unjust, and thus is not binding on Christian consciences.
But where do we draw the line in terms of the Church’s position toward illegal immigrants? Refusing someone needs based on status is wrong, but is it equally wrong not to encourage them to seek legal status. Doesn’t the Church have an obligation to encourage illegal aliens to seek legal status?
I argue this on two levels. One, justice demands obedience to just laws, and there is nothing to suggest that limiting immigration is unjust. So, aren’t we being unfaithful to the Gospel if we don’t help people achieve status legally and obey the just law. For instance, definitely give an illegal immigrant food, water, sacraments, etc. But shouldn’t we also then be giving them legal advice on achieving legal status?
On the second level, half-charity would only be to give them food and send them on their way. Full charity would be to give them food and a some options toward a real stable life in the US. Don’t we owe it to them to care for all of their needs, and not just hand out what’s in the food pantry?
So in terms of our own integrity, and the greater demands of charity for the immigrants themselves, don’t we have an obligation to help them work toward legal status?



report abuse
 

Ken

posted March 20, 2006 at 12:42 pm


This issue is burning up the airwaves on Los Angeles talk radio. John and Ken (KFI-AM, mouthiest afternoon drive-time guys in SoCal and *definitely* anti-illegal immigration) have had Congressman Tancredo on several times.



report abuse
 

Samuel J. Howard

posted March 21, 2006 at 12:53 am


“Provision of the sacraments to a person you know to be an illegal alien would also be assisting or encouraging them to remain in the United States.”
Unlikely, because construing it that way would probably conflict with the free-exercise clause.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

There is nothing I shall want
A couple of weeks ago, a memorial Mass for Michael was held here in Birmingham at the Cathedral. The bishop presided and offered a very nice, even charming homily in which he first focused on the Scripture readings of the day, and then turned to Michael, whom he remembered, among other things, as on

posted 9:24:16am Mar. 05, 2009 | read full post »

Revolutionary Road - Is it just me?
Why am I the only person I know..or even "know" in the Internet sense of "knowing"  - who didn't hate it? I didn't love it, either. There was a lot wrong with it. Weak characterization. Miscasting. Anvil-wielding mentally ill prophets.But here's the thing.Whether or not Yates' original novel in

posted 9:45:04pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Books for Lent
No, I'm not going to ask you about your Lenten reading lists...although I might.Not today, though. This post is about giving books to others. For Lent, and a long time after that. You know how it goes during Lent: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving, right?Well, here's a worthy recipient for your hard-

posted 9:22:07pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Why Via Media
How about....because I'm lame and hate thinking up titles to things? No?Okay...how about...St. Benedict? Yes, yes, I know the association with Anglicanism. That wasn't invovled in my purpose in naming the joint, but if draws some Googling Episcopalians, all the better.To tell the truth, you can bl

posted 8:54:17pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Brave Heart?
I don't know about you, but one of effects of childbirth on me was a compulsion to spill the details. All of them.The whole thing was fascinating to me, so of course I assumed everyone else should be fascinated as well in the recounting of every minute of labor, describing the intensity of discomfor

posted 10:19:45pm Mar. 03, 2009 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.