By DEXTER DUGGAN
PHOENIX — It’s said that a callous smuggler about to scoot away on the U.S.-Mexico border may tell trusting illegal aliens whom he’s abandoning that Phoenix is just over the next hill. Adios, and have a good hike.
Actually, depending on their border location, Arizona’s capital city would be a drive of two, three, or more hours away on a good highway. On foot, it’s an arduous desert distance that gets even worse if the travel guidance comes in a complex 1,197-page map.
That’s how many pages are in the “comprehensive immigration reform” bill (S 744) the U.S. Senate’s “Gang of Eight” got passed last June. But it hasn’t begun rolling in the House.
It’s such a huge piece of legislation — like onerous Obamacare — that neither a congressman’s office nor a think tank would agree to mail me a hard copy. When a proposed law is as big as a dictionary, beware. I got the impression from one reluctant office that I was asking to be mailed something with the bulk of a battleship.
There’s certainly a battle going on over crucial terminology on immigration, leaving those contending over word usage all at sea, even on Southwestern terrain.
This is the guide the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has chosen to chart the way to immigration justice, as the bishops see it. But if the words on a map have entirely different meanings to different people, how might the travelers arrive at the same goal?
Retired Las Cruces, N.M., Bishop Ricardo Ramirez was guest homilist here on January 14 at the Diocese of Phoenix’s annual Red Mass at St. Mary’s Basilica in downtown Phoenix, to mark the start of the year’s lawmaking at the state capitol. It’s attended by legislators and other public officials. The USCCB’s “comprehensive immigration reform” was Ramirez’s message to the captive audience.
While lauding the United States as a place where the rule of law sets a shining example, Ramirez didn’t seem to see the contradiction when he asked that millions of illegal aliens who violate the Catholic Catechism by dishonoring this nation’s laws should be rewarded with citizenship. This shreds the rule of law.
Having praised the U.S. rule of law, Ramirez soon seemed to suggest that its immigration law deserves to be disobeyed. When civil laws “violate human dignity . . . then those laws must be declared unjust,” he said, quickly moving along to say the U.S. bishops call for reforming the immigration laws.
Had Ramirez just declared U.S. immigration law so unjust as to violate human dignity itself? What was the congregation to think? But he was preaching a homily, not calling for questions from the audience.
When Ramirez spoke of people who want to live decent lives, contribute to the community, provide for their families and pay their taxes, he could have been speaking of any alien who applies to become a U.S. citizen.
Except that the U.S. already has a generous legal-immigration system that millions of people patiently follow. The bishop didn’t provide the justification for why millions of other aliens should be allowed to break the law, jump the line, and demand priority for seeking the same advantages that legal applicants do.
To hear the USCCB sometimes, one would think the U.S. allows no legal immigration at all.
True refugees fleeing dangerous conditions have a different situation, and their needs can be addressed accordingly, without blurring or erasing distinctions between various groups. To hear Ramirez, though, one might think that the desire to be in the U.S. is sufficient on its own.
As it happened, liberal Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) happened to be on the radio news here the same day that Ramirez spoke at the basilica. Menendez said that Congress should extend unemployment benefits because there simply aren’t enough jobs in the U.S. for willing people looking for work.
Interestingly, Menendez is one of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” leaders pushing for massive additional immigration into the U.S. One can only wonder at this bill when the actual unemployment rate in this nation is around a scandalous 14 percent after five years of Barack Obama’s misrule, and people are simply dropping out of the job search in despair under Obama’s diseased economy.
Yet U.S. Big Businessmen say they’re desperate to bring in rivers of new workers?
A retired southern Arizona Catholic attorney, Ann Howard, reacted to Ramirez’s comments with these words to The Wanderer:
“Comprehensive reform for the bishops includes legalization and a pathway to citizenship, family reunification, and increases in work visas. The Church’s teaching that a prosperous country should welcome immigrants to the extent it is able just has to preclude those policies in this current economic crisis, where millions of legal Americans are jobless and on welfare.
“America is not able anymore,” Howard said. “The bishops should be promoting policies which help Americans as well as illegal immigrants. Actually, it is not their job to be making specific policy statements, but that is another issue.”
Another point to consider, she said, “is that Mexico has a better economy and unemployment rate than do we. Perhaps everyone would be better off if the bishops encouraged those from Mexico to find work in their home country.”
After “comprehensive immigration reform” passed the Senate last June, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) think tank in Washington, D.C., issued a fact sheet. It pointed out that even under the optimistic projection of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the “Gang of Eight” bill would still allow one-half to two-thirds of the current illegal immigration to continue — hardly an end to massive illegal entry!
The fact sheet observed: “Since amnesties always encourage more illegal immigration, these estimates are very problematic for those claiming that a bill would put an end to illegal immigration. The CBO estimates show that new illegal immigration will add nearly 500,000 illegal residents and their children to the U.S. population each year over the next decade and that nearly five million new illegal immigrants and their U.S.-born children will be living in the country by 2023.”
The CIS statement added: “Some politicians will respond that the way to end illegal immigration is to welcome more legal immigration. Of course, this argument is based on the notion that the American people should not have any control over who we allow in; such a mindset puts the control of U.S. sovereignty into the hands of foreigners. Plus, it’s the equivalent of arguing that the best way to put an end to people running red lights is to remove traffic signals at intersections.”
In both advance publicity and during his homily at St. Mary’s Basilica on January 14, Ramirez said the U.S. bishops don’t favor open borders. The diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Sun, quoted him preaching at the evening Mass: “The U.S. bishops in no way favor open borders. We believe that every nation needs to protect its sovereignty.”
From the pews, I heard Ramirez not only disavow open borders but repeat the disavowal.
Was the retired bishop feeling pressured to prove to skeptics that the bishops really take this position?
According to “comprehensive immigration reform” proponents, border security is only one element of reform, all parts of which must be passed in one package.
While the “comprehensive” measure hasn’t passed, the border has remained easily porous, with those repeatedly deported using the international line as their revolving door.
Champions of “comprehensive reform” fear that if the border is protected first, other parts of the package will be forgotten.
On the other hand, those who cry out for border security as the priority are well aware that even when security was part of an overall package in the past, it simply didn’t get done. To them it makes perfect sense to say: Once we see that reliable security is in place and working, only then we can be confident other aspects deserve consideration.
For years Arizonans have watched border violence, both in their own state and spilling over from across the international line. Only four days after Ramirez spoke, news reports described an intense battle in Mexico, just south of Cochise County, Ariz., one of the prime entry locations into the United States for illegal aliens.
The battle reportedly involved automatic weapons and hand grenades and was between rival Mexican drug cartels, leaving between eight and 13 people dead. Tucson television news reported that Cochise County law enforcement went into “high alert,” with its sheriff warning:
“If in fact there are criminal factions that intend to bring their issues to the United States, we want to assure them that we are working closely with local, state, and federal agencies to be prepared as necessary and be successful in our mission to stop any violence from occurring in our county.”
Just before Christmas, the sheriff’s office in Pinal County, Ariz., immediately southeast of Phoenix’s Maricopa County, reported that Mexican drug cartels were boosting their activities in Pinal. On December 24 it issued a news release headlined, “Drug cartels increase trafficking activity before the holidays — Three pursuits and 14 others in custody on five other separate cases in 24 hours.”
One might think the Latino criminal gangs know they’re walking a tightrope: How much violence can they get away with before the pressure on U.S. politicians to stop them becomes unbearable? And how much longer can Catholic bishops keep insisting that outraged U.S. citizens must continue to wait, and wait, and wait for passage of “comprehensive reform” before people are allowed to have reliable protection against the trespassing and defiant activities of violent armed aliens?
As if lawbreaking Barack Obama would ever allow border protection, no matter how many laws are passed to mandate it.
In 2010 the federal government posted signs along the Interstate 8 highway in Arizona, warning travelers against Mexican drug and alien smugglers in the area, well north of the border. The same year, some of Pinal County was described by its sheriff as being under the functional control of the alien gangs.
In October 2010, a man was beheaded in classic cartel fashion in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler after he reportedly raised the ire of a Mexican drug gang.
Prominent southeastern Arizona rancher Rob Krentz and his dog were found killed in March 2010 while they worked his land, after Krentz radioed that he came across an illegal alien. The killer was never found, but trackers followed his trail back to Mexico.
The following month, Arizona’s Gov. Jan Brewer soared in the polls after she signed into law SB 1070, to allow law enforcers to inquire into the immigration status, when it seemed appropriate, of someone they had detained for some other offense.
In her signing statement, Brewer said: “There is no higher priority than protecting the citizens of Arizona. We cannot sacrifice our safety to the murderous greed of drug cartels. We cannot stand idly by as drop houses, kidnappings and violence compromise our quality of life.
“We cannot delay while the destruction happening south of our international border creeps its way north,” she said. “We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act. But decades of federal inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation.”
Brewer hadn’t been known as a strong border defender, but the crisis made up her mind.
It was a commonsense measure for a state under widespread criminal assault, but the Arizona Catholic Conference (ACC), the bishops’ lobbying arm, attacked it repeatedly. To the ACC, the issue always seemed a stark contrast between innocent Mary, Joseph, and Jesus coming here from Mexico, and U.S. racists defying God and throwing obstacles into their suffering path.
A special “Mass of consolation and hope” quickly was celebrated for local illegal immigrants who felt aggrieved. The church reportedly was packed. The May 20, 2010, Catholic Sun blasted the new law as breaking the Christ-inspired “bond of fraternal love” among Catholics.
As close as the bishops want to bring illegal immigrants into the U.S., the prelates are putting themselves so far out of touch with Americans as to be off on another planet.