By DEXTER DUGGAN
PHOENIX — Just back from a trip to McAllen, Texas, a longtime resident along the Southwest border told The Wanderer that she was pleased with a recent statement concerning Central America by an official of the U.S. Catholic bishops.
However, she added, the bishops need to remember the importance of the rule of law that’s flouted by the illegal immigrants they defend. She provided this newspaper with observations of life from her trip.
McAllen, located on the southern tip of Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, has been in recent news coverage because of the surge of illegal aliens into the Lone Star State.
The woman, who asked not to be identified because of border-security concerns, is known personally to this newspaper. She asked to be described as “a woman who lives on and often travels across the border.” We’ll call her Mrs. Jones.
Mrs. Jones said she was encouraged by a recent letter that Des Moines, Iowa, Catholic Bishop Richard Pates wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry after Pates visited Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras as chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Among various points in his July 24 letter, Pates called attention to trade policies and mining activities that affect the Latino nations’ welfare negatively.
Pates said that during his visit, complaints were made “from Church leaders as well as representatives of civil society that the implementation of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), and similar trade policies, has in many cases devastated small agricultural producers and businesses in the region, while depressing labor conditions and wages.
“As an example,” he continued, “U.S. corporations, receiving significant subsidies and other protections from our government, have been able to export corn and other agricultural products to Central America, driving down local prices for these products and forcing rural families off their lands.”
In addition, “The conduct of U.S. and Canadian mining companies in these countries has contributed to destructive environmental and public-health consequences for communities in Central America,” Pates wrote.
“We heard powerful testimonies, by civil and Church leaders, of brutality and oppression, including torture and murder.
“Community leaders and representatives of indigenous communities in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, who resisted the unregulated expansion of mining activities in their native lands, have been targeted,” he wrote.
“Our government, joined by our Canadian allies, must do more to support the claims and interests of these affected communities.”
Mrs. Jones told The Wanderer that she has been “a strong critic” of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) from the beginning, and wants to give a “big accolade” to Pates’ statement.
On the issue of protecting the U.S. border, she said, the U.S. government “must expand E-Verify,” the government system that allows employers to determine if a person is eligible to work in the U.S., as well as eliminating a policy of retaining illegal immigrants here, and giving the Border Patrol the “ability to shoot at any show of aggression” against border enforcement.
Mrs. Jones also provided The Wanderer with her written observations based on her trip to Texas. She noticed the deterioration in life due to the massive illegal inflow, as well as the bishops’ responsibility for encouraging this. Her observations follow:
“As one visits the Rio Grande Valley in Texas and explores the border with Mexico, one’s heart can sink. It is so hard to see the ordinary life of those who live on the American side so negatively affected by illegal entrants. The peaceful river country is assaulted by the steady sounds of helicopters hovering over the Rio Grande looking for them.
“Add the visual assault of uniformed men and women, of armored trucks and of machine guns on boats parked in the river. All this to hopefully protect America, its citizens and the very culture itself from the violence of drug cartels, people-smugglers, and multi-motivated illegal immigrants paying up to $10,000 to slip into America for the American Dream.
“That the dream is morphing into a nightmare is not just my perception. A Mexican national woman, who is here because she has a child born in America, offered that assessment, too. She said she was going to go back to Mexico because life was better there in her very small village. At least she will be back in her own land with her large extended family.
“Who is to say that life is less human than the one she endures here, undereducated and unskilled, lacking facility in English: allowed to stay in this country as fodder for those who exploit such people.
“And the legal American residents of the RGV [Rio Grande Valley] are suffering also. A couple who took their children to Anzalduas Park in Hidalgo County on the river for a picnic were startled to have a pregnant woman, apparently brought across the river on a jet ski, just sit down at their table with them. The woman was trying to avoid someone, but the family certainly could not know who.
“It could have been the coyote who brought her across and was trying to extort more money from her family, or it could have been the Border Patrol, or the Texas Department of Public Safety, or the Hidalgo County Sheriff, or a coyote on the American side.
“Family safety is a huge issue on the border these days. Some parks on the river no longer can allow camping, fishing, and snowbird recreational vehicles. It is too dangerous.
“But the solution is not more retention of illegal immigrants already here, regardless of what one might think. Unless and until the ‘magnet’ in America is removed by vigorous enforcement of current laws, people in countries now sending their citizens out will keep coming.
“Only when expanded E-Verify laws are enforced will illegal people self-deport. When that happens, the legal American resident will no longer have to suffer depressed wages, robbing him or her of her ability to feed, clothe, and educate their own children.
“If this is not done soon, even the illegal workers will discover, like the woman now going back to Mexico, that because of the depressed wages, the dream is no longer there for anyone. And with the dream gone for everyone, America will then wake up to a world populated only by the poor and the rich, absent a middle class.
“The hope will be gone. The country founded on the rule of law, sweetened with the tincture of mercy, and epikeia, or equity, will be unrecognizable. Lost to the future will be that country whose spirit so changed the world and which allowed the Catholic Church to flourish for the most part because of a First Amendment, born of English common law and the natural law itself.
“But more disconcerting than the above is the deterioration of things Catholic. The ruins of the missions and chapels on the river are symbols of a Church which has lost the vision of true Christian charity!
“No longer are there armies of Fr. Hidalgos or Fr. Kinos sent by the Church to the peoples of the sending countries. No longer to any great extent are the oppressed people in the sending countries being taught the faith, along with being fed by such missionaries by being taught to grow food more efficiently, being clothed by being taught to produce cloth and to sew, being housed by being taught to build their own from the materials of their land.
“Most of all, they apparently are not being educated in the knowledge and understanding of their own dignity, of their rights in their own homelands to freedom and opportunity as stated so firmly in Catholic social teaching.
“The America they want to come to contains the people, including Catholics and their clergy, capable of helping educate and enable other cultures in such a manner. Do we do enough?
“The American Catholic Church is now an agent of the U.S. federal government. Its charity is effected by money laundered from the taxpayers, through federal tax revenues, albeit supplemented by direct donations from Catholics in the pew. The Church bureaucracy then confers grants to agencies both secular and religious to effect ‘Christian charity.’
“It seems to be a long way from the Fr. Hidalgo and the Fr. Kino type of charity to the poor. It seems to be an arm’s-length sterilized type of charity. It is bereft of the touch of love.
“The bishops’ style of charity includes retention and family reunification for what are definite lawbreakers. Regardless of certain rhetoric, the entrants are not usually children. They are older people, coached with the ‘reason du jour’ for why they should stay.
“That stated reason is that they are fleeing violence, but interviews demonstrate unequivocally that is not the case. The admitted reason is ‘economic reasons.’ A few years ago the reason was, ‘I just want to feed my family,’ which often meant the family that they would start here.
“The bishops’ charity is unconcerned with the fact that the law is being broken and that break is ignored both by the government and the entrants.
“The bishops surely have not forgotten that to ignore the enforcement of the rule of law is to clip one of the wings of the America which became that symbol of freedom from tyranny of an all-powerful government.
“If that loss happens because of the bishops’ lobbying and the president’s executive orders, and regulations formulated by bureaucrats, the loss of the First Amendment cannot be far behind.
“Most of all, it is a charity with no respect for the common good of all concerned, including our legal American poor, as well as the American taxpayers forced to fund the destruction of their own culture.
“Something has to happen. Now the Church is learning that dancing with the devil of the leftist-dominated federal government is going to end up leaving it a wallflower if it refuses to obey the latest presidential executive order requiring no ‘discrimination’ against militant homosexuals.
“It is an order hostile in the extreme toward faith communities absent a religious exemption, but maybe our bishops can come out of the bubble in which they now seem to live and get on with true evangelization, sever the ties that bind them to what is becoming a tyrannical federal government, and work for the common good.
“We can hope for such change,” Mrs. Jones concluded.