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Jewish World Review
March 24, 2006
/ 24 Adar, 5766
The gospel and the immigration debate
When it comes to illegal immigration, suddenly liberal Democrats have only one guide to public policy: "What Would Jesus Do?" The target of their Bible-based ire is a border-enforcement bill that recently passed the House and is allegedly the greatest challenge Christianity has faced since the lions in the Colosseum.
Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., said "this bill would literally criminalize the good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself." Note: not figuratively, but literally. The New York Times has attacked the bill with an editorial titled "The Gospel vs. H.R. 4437." Stoking all the Bible-thumping is Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, who alleges that the legislation would outlaw acts of charity for illegal immigrants. In making this charge, Cardinal Mahony apparently has no compunction about deceiving his flock.
Even opponents of the bill are careful to stipulate their opposition to illegal immigration. In a New York Times op-ed, Cardinal Mahony laments "the baleful consequences of illegal immigration. Families are separated, workers are exploited and migrants are left by smugglers to die in the desert. Illegal immigration serves neither the migrant nor the common good."
Just so. If anything is to be done about it, however, there will have to be stricter enforcement. Hillary Clinton herself has said that she wants to strengthen the border and crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. She presumably thinks Jesus — whose views on the nuances of immigration policy are evidently more easily extrapolated than anyone realized heretofore — would wholeheartedly support all of this.
Cardinal Mahony and Sen. Clinton favor amnesty as part of immigration reform. But amnesty will encourage even more illegal entries, thus exacerbating the problems that Cardinal Mahony deplores. In alleging that the House bill would criminalize the acts of good Samaritans, Cardinal Mahony is engaging in typical hardball political tactics — smearing his opponents in an attempt to give his side the better part of an argument.
The provision in question makes it illegal to "assist" an illegal immigrant to "remain in the United States." This merely tightens language already on the books. If the new language puts nuns at risk of prosecution for providing services to needy immigrants (it doesn't), they were already in such legal jeopardy. The bill stipulates that to break the law requires assisting an illegal knowingly or in reckless disregard of his status — because it is not aimed at social workers, but at the vicious "coyote" smuggling rings that exploit illegals in the course of bringing them here for exorbitant fees.
David C. Iglesias, a United States attorney in New Mexico, has written in the Washington Times in support of the House bill, "Our existing alien smuggling laws are inadequate, outdated and unnecessarily complicated." Prosecutors want the law up-dated to help them to punish the smugglers, not to indict someone working at a homeless shelter that happens to house an illegal immigrant. In an attention-getting gesture, Cardinal Mahony has urged his priests and parishioners to defy the law should it make it on the books. To actually break the law, however, Mahony's resisters would have to become "quasi-coyotes," setting up rings to sneak Mexicans into the country and harbor them here.
There is much to offend the moral sensibilities of everyone about our current immigration system. The first step to putting it on a more rational and humane basis is to get a better handle on who comes here. The Catholic bishops have affirmed that "sovereign nations have a right to control their borders." The forces who want to exploit illegal immigrants aren't those who favor exercising that sovereign right, but the U.S. employers who desperately want Mexicans to keep coming.
In the debate over the House bill, these employers are in a de facto alliance with Cardinal Mahony to try to preserve their access to cheap, low-skill labor without the full rights of U.S. citizens. Selfish capitalists surely have never been so grateful for the political activism of a socially conscious (and ill-informed) Catholic bishop.
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