By DEXTER DUGGAN
PHOENIX — Against a backdrop of terror plots and attacks in the United States, Europe, and Asia, an Arizona grand jury shortly after Christmas indicted a Phoenix man on charges of supporting a foreign terrorist organization.
Having been arrested on December 20, the man reportedly had done online searches for topics including Midnight Mass, suicide, and martyrdom.
Derrick Thompson, 30, A/K/A Abu Talib Al-Amriki, “allegedly solicited, incited, or induced others to promote or further the criminal objectives of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS),” according to a December 30 news release from the Arizona attorney general’s office.
“Thompson is also alleged to have knowingly attempted to possess a deadly weapon while being a prohibited possessor,” the release said, because of a prior felony conviction.
The indictment resulted from an investigation by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force Phoenix Field Office, the release said.
Thompson lived in an apartment about a five-minute drive from my home. My church, where I often attend Midnight Mass at Christmas, is one of three Catholic parishes closest to Thompson’s residence.
Wherever a terrorist attack occurs in the world, local people say they couldn’t believe it happened right there in their neighborhood. Might a suicide mission have been ready to occur along Phoenix’s busy 24th Street?
Then, just before 2016 ended, a neighbor near me had a personal surprise.
Early the morning of New Year’s Eve Day, bold thieves stole all four tires right off the SUV parked in his carport after they unscrewed his motion-activated security light. They left the SUV up on blocks after slipping the tires, rims, and hubcaps off right next to his kitchen door.
Most homes in the neighborhood don’t have garages but only wide-open carports, as befits a desert area that hardly ever has frigid or drenching weather.
My awakening neighbor heard an early morning sound, looked out, and saw four men dressed in black and hoodies driving away with more than $2,300 worth of tires.
No suspects had been taken into custody as of January 3.
When I mentioned the tire theft to another neighbor, he said it happens all the time, and vehicles that are stolen may end up in Mexico.
But if stealing tires off SUVs in residents’ carports is frequent, it certainly hasn’t happened that way on our block.
Does such boldness connote lawbreakers who feel they have nothing to lose? I contacted one of The Wanderer’s sources who lives close to the Arizona-Mexico border and has extended family on both sides of that international line. Does this sound like a south-of-the-border tactic?
She replied, “The Mexicans tend to be bold because they are not afraid of our justice system. ‘Send me home? Be right back. Set a trial? Won’t show. Set bail? No problema. Let the money go’.”
The woman requested not to be named because of her security concerns near the border.
She said a Tucson police officer told her that “they think they are untouchable. So destructive.” Tucson is about an hour’s drive north of the Nogales, Ariz., port of entry.
“There is no one in my extended family that has not had a car stolen by illegal immigrants,” she added. “I had to go get mine (back from) Mexico. They provide no help or interpretive services, as do we.”
Her friends park their cars with the rear license plate against a wall so thieves won’t steal the plate and put it on a stolen vehicle, she said. Arizona law doesn’t require a front license plate for cars.
Although there are “many wonderful immigrants,” she said, one shouldn’t “romanticize their presence” while forgetting that their being here “should be good for all.” And they need “an admonition about their duty to assimilate and follow our laws.”
It shouldn’t be surprising that criminals who like to take advantages are attracted from south of the border to the U.S. treasure chest because they know how much they can get away with here. What criminal immigrant wouldn’t like an environment encouraged by an open-borders lawbreaker like Barack Obama?
They often can expect to be ignored or released by law enforcement, treated lightly, or simply told to show up later for legal proceedings when they have no intention of doing so.
But if distressed U.S. citizens dare complain about this dangerous climate, they’re often mocked or deprecated. If lawbreakers and their pals behave like the Bible’s Barabbas and his criminal friends, U.S. citizens are expected to avert their eyes and instead regard every border-crosser as the reincarnation of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph on journey.
Various news agencies reported that many illegal immigrants continued to pour northward into the U.S. while Obama remains president because they were concerned it’d be harder to enter once President-elect Donald Trump’s administration takes over.
Also, Reuters news service reported on January 3: “In fiscal year 2015, the latest year for which data (are) available, border patrol agents apprehended 2,626 illegal migrants on the U.S.-Canada border compared to 331,333 apprehended on the U.S.-Mexico border.”
Some U.S. citizens with concerns about border violations say that for every alien who is stopped, at least two enter this country without a halt.
Rather than make demands on their own governments to improve the homelands, unauthorized immigrants often are thought to come here and make their demands not to be deported on the U.S.
Late on Christmas Eve, the website of The Arizona Republic, the state’s largest daily paper, posted an article by Bishop Thomas Olmsted, leader of the Diocese of Phoenix, headlined, “How Hispanics are shaping the Catholic Church.”
Commenting that in recent years, the growth in the Catholic population “is largely due to the ever-increasing Hispanic population,” the bishop said “the Diocese of Phoenix’s Hispanics or Latinos now represent 59 percent of our Catholic population.”
Data show that “the overall Hispanic population in Arizona tripled between 1990 and 2015,” Olmsted said, and the “majority of our school-age children are Hispanic.”
The Catholic population in the U.S. continues to grow, “especially in the Southwest, largely due to migration and immigration,” Olmsted wrote, with Hispanics accounting “for 69 percent of the Diocese of Tucson and 59 percent of the Diocese of Phoenix.”
A subhead, which may have been written by an editor rather than Olmsted, said, “New immigrants keeping the Church alive.”
Below this subhead, Olmsted quoted Pope Francis in Philadelphia in 2015 speaking to Hispanics, including this remark: “By contributing your gifts, you will not only find your place here, you will help to renew society from within.”
A Porous Border
At no point did Olmsted note what might explain a surge in the population of one ethnic group to a position of such dominance in a relatively brief period, nor did he mention immigration that’s illegal. However, the Phoenix Diocese, reflecting the open-borders viewpoint of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, continues to beckon to unauthorized entrants.
The diocese, like the USCCB, has said border security cannot take priority but must be provided as part of “comprehensive immigration reform.”
Meanwhile, advantage-seeking, border-crossing criminals often are free to come and go as they please because of the continuing porous border, worsened by Obama’s policies. Yet even to acknowledge such an obvious fact seems to be anathema in chanceries.
Olmsted’s diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Sun, reflects the USCCB border view. A Sun article posted in September 2013 made no bones about it. The story was headlined, “Waiting on reform: Church continues to walk in solidarity with undocumented immigrants.”
Among its criticisms of impediments to immigration, the story quoted the diocese’s auxiliary bishop, Eduardo Nevares, saying: “The Church is here for all immigrants. Our Church doesn’t ask for papers and she doesn’t ask your religion. We just keep our doors open to all.”
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 in 2010, responding to public demands for better border protection, despite the diocese’s asking her to veto it. The Sun ran a front-page story noting illegal immigrants’ alarm over the new law, and the Phoenix Diocese held a special Mass in Mesa, Ariz., explicitly to comfort and console them. The church reportedly was packed.
Public resentment of the Church’s insensitivity about defending U.S. citizens’ safety and security first no doubt contributed to Trump’s successful appeal to prioritize border enhancements. If voters felt their concerns already were being addressed, there would have been no reason for them repeatedly to chant “Build the wall!” at his campaign rallies.
U.S. immigration law is not, and should not be, written according to what is most beneficial to increase the membership of this nation’s Catholic Church. Nor should Church spokesmen condescendingly express the attitude that Hispanics are some kind of special spiritual medicine imported to cure U.S. citizens.
Remarks about the need to bring in more Latinos in order to keep the U.S. Church alive betray the failure of the hierarchy to supply the required spiritual strength and leadership to legal citizens already here. If these parishioners departed Catholic pews, too many bishops simply waved them goodbye rather than develop effective catechesis.
Despite every human being’s inclination to sin, U.S. families a few decades ago exhibited better traditional spiritual strength — before much of the U.S. media began their sustained assault against moral values.
Although U.S. media outpourings influence the entire world to some extent already, new border-crossers arriving here become subject to the full, direct media blast. If legal citizens’ values here have been undermined, new residents should fare no better as they grow more familiar with this culture.
Moreover, a non-Catholic or anti-Catholic atmosphere is unlikely to sustain a person’s imperfect religious upbringing from south of the border.
If it’s said financial betterment is available only here, that argument is quickly refuted by dramatic economic improvements even in Communist or former Communist countries that used to be desperately poor but were open to making at least some market reforms.
The Beijing or Moscow of 2017 is startlingly different from the dreary past of overwhelming scarcity and privation. But those governments had to take some responsibility on themselves instead of just hustling their own people illegally into the U.S.
The Wanderer asked Barbara Simpson, a northern California conservative commentator and Catholic, for her reaction to Olmsted’s recent article. She began by commenting on the Church generally, then turned to Olmsted.
“As a Roman Catholic in this country, I am appalled at what’s happening to my Church. Unfortunately, the papacy of Francis isn’t making it easier for average American Catholics,” Simpson said.
“There’s massive confusion as to what we are to believe and how we are to act in terms of the sacraments and the Mass. When bishops and cardinals make statements that essentially say we can abide by our own conscience regardless of the dogma and moral norms of the Church through the ages, it’s a sign we’re in deep trouble,” she said.
“The biggest controversy relates to Amoris Laetitia — with confusion as to its meaning. Four cardinals are asking the Pope to explain his position and the Pope ignores them. But no less a problem is the fact that the American bishops have taken it upon themselves to support illegal immigration into this country. They condone people sneaking across the border and living here, pretending to be here legally,” Simpson said.
“The bishop of Phoenix, Thomas Olmsted, supports this and takes it much further, writing that the Church in Arizona, purely because of numbers, is virtually a Hispanic Church, and that’s where the American Catholic Church is heading. He condones this and supports all the USCCB’s plans to welcome and help ‘immigrant’ Hispanics. He says nothing about the rest of us,” she said.
“The effect of being ignored is unclear, except that our religious leaders are encouraging ‘moral relativism’ and make it more difficult to raise our children to be moral, good people, as Christ desires,” Simpson said.