April 27, 2008

The Bishop on Immigration

Justin Katz

Bishop Thomas Tobin's latest Without a Doubt column (still not yet online), which he frames as a Q&A on the Church's teachings with respect to [illegal] immigration, avoids the questions in which Roman Catholics who disagree with the bishop are most interested. Indeed, the answers stop frustratingly short of the actual dispute, veering aside with everything following the "instead" :

Does the Church promote and support illegal immigration?

"No. The Catholic Church does not support or encourage illegal immigration because 1) it is contrary to federal law and 2) it is not good either for society because of the presence of a large population living outside the legal structures or the migrant ... Instead, the Church is advocating changing a broken law so that undocumented persons can obtain legal status in our country and enter the United States legally to work and support their families." (USCCB Statement on Comprehensive Immigration Reform)

In short, illegal immigration is a bad deal for everyone — for our country and its citizens, for legal immigrants, and for those who have entered the country illegally.

The faithful are left with no guidance as to the view of the Conference of Catholic Bishops regarding the number of "undocumented persons" permitted to "enter the United States legally," or even the criteria and emphases that ought to be considered as public representatives determine the specifics. If the law is "broken," it sounds an awful lot as if the bishops believe fixing it means turning it into little more than a means of processing applications, not of judging civic value.

Yes, the response is easy to anticipate: It isn't the place of a government to judge the value of a human being. But that's clearly a dodge. All human beings are of equal value in an absolute sense, but some bring more to the table, or are just a better fit for current socio-economic needs of the nation. As an employer, the Church judges between candidates for particular jobs and does not tangle itself into moral knots deciding whether it is making a declaration of their inherent worth.

And so the debate goes on, with the bishop sounding more like a voice for one side of a political dispute than a beacon through which all sides can find their way out of contentious circumstances:

Immigrants who came to our land without proper documentation did so, in most cases, for positive reasons.

How does Bishop Tobin respond to we who find something stealthy in his presentation of such immigration as a matter of misplaced paperwork? Illegal immigrants didn't merely fail to file the appropriate documents; they didn't receive permission, and I suspect, if pressed, the bishop might concede that such permission is the right (the responsibility) of a political entity to grant and, sometimes, to deny.

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The Bishop stealthy?
Man, he's sooooooo inconvenient when his concerns move beyond abortion and gay marriage.

Posted by: rhody at April 27, 2008 1:37 PM


Part of the problem is that the stealthiness is built into advocacy for illegal immigrants. Consider the two issues that you raise: Rightly, Catholics are very specific, and empathetic to the other side, when dealing with those issues on which they take a conservative stance. My frustration is with my sense that the same is not true when their stance is more liberal — as if they're trying to say something without saying it.

And, by the way, I take umbrage to your insinuations about inconvenience. I don't think many Catholics who disagree with the bishop on this issue find him "inconvenient," as in an obstacle to be avoided or removed. We're trying to engage him in conversation so that we can trace the origins of our disagreement.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 27, 2008 1:44 PM

Face it Justin, you order off the cafeteria menu just like the rest of us.

Posted by: Pat Crowley at April 27, 2008 2:58 PM

"For positive reasons" and, may I add, often at great personal risk and with much courage. I recently read an account of the journey of Central American illegals through Mexico to USA. Violent and corrupt Mexican gangs and police, rapes and assaults against the women, harrowing stuff, to say the least. Nevertheless, the bishop's empathy contributes to the problem, it doesn't alleviate it. Champions of the illegals should just admit that they want to import whole families and cultures permanently and not just workers. If it's just workers we want, we can go to a system of "circular migration" where workers come in legally for a time and return home eventually, without having to live in the shadows or be preyed on by "coyotes" or corrupt and cheating employers.
The "out of status" trope always gets my goat. The Sept. 11 hijackers were out of status. They entered legally under tourist or student visas and overstayed. Open border advocates always frame the issue to make it seem like all these otherwise law abiding immigrants would be in status were it not for the incompetence of the INS. The bishop is a folkie, I think. He should reflect on the Gordon Lightfoot lyric bemoaning technological progress and it's effect on the mobility of a hungover loser in the early morning rain, "you can't jump a jet plane like you can a freight train." Wrong bishop, you absolutely can jump on a jet plane with a couple of hundred dollars for airfare and a visa obtained under false pretenses, and millions of people have.

Posted by: observer at April 27, 2008 3:32 PM

Crowley-you have said a few times on RIF that you just don't believe in our immigration laws,likening them most recently to the segregation laws.You said that only the most absurd among us believe they are good laws.Well,ducky they are the law whether you like it or not.Can you tell me of a single country that does not have immigration and nationality laws?I don't think so.The Federal courts have consistantly found that there is an essential legal differentiation between citizens and aliens as expressed in Title 8 of the US Code.I know just a little more about Title 8 than you do.Ask your friend Jerzyk if he has had any immigration law courses at RWU.I know law students take only one or two criminal law courses-do they take any immigration courses?I really don't know.I don't pick and choose the laws I will follow because I dislike the results when people do that en masse.
The US Constitution refers to the power of the federal government to naturalize people.Now naturalization presupposes that the people to be naturalized are aliens and therefore that they immigrate here,and the government has authority over the entire process.You just don't get it.

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 27, 2008 5:36 PM

Addendum:Matthews v.Diaz,a Supreme Court decision from 1976 defines what I said above.

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 27, 2008 8:38 PM

"...with the bishop sounding more like a voice for one side of a political dispute than a beacon through which all sides can find their way out of contentious circumstances"

It's because only one side is right here. By the very use of the word "illegal" as a noun, the anti-illegal-immigrant side tries to dehumanize the person. How can one find a way to converse with that?

Posted by: arturo fernandez at April 27, 2008 10:06 PM

Simple, Arturo: by insisting on the noun "immigrant," which almost all those on the other side will quickly allow, inasmuch as they have not dehumanized the immigrant, merely taken the adjective "illegal" as shorthand.

Then the conversation could proceed to discussing the substantial distance between "illegal immigrant" and "undocumented worker," which is about where I started in my response.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 27, 2008 10:44 PM

Justin-I went back and forth with Arturo-it's a waste of time-it would be nice if Arturo told us his country of origin and we can see what kind of enlightened immigration laws and "human rights"they have there

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 27, 2008 11:04 PM

"the bishop's empathy contributes to the problem, it doesn't alleviate it."

As does everyone who has misdirected empathy on the subject.

I'm in line with you, Joe, for an answer to your question about the borders and immigration laws of other countries - why do other countries get to have them but we don't.

Posted by: Monique at April 28, 2008 12:15 AM

"illegal" as shorthand? you're fooling yourself. it's used as a noun precisely to dehumanize, which easily becomes interchangeable with words like "scum" which your reader Greg recently showed to no one's objection here.

Posted by: arturo fernandez at April 28, 2008 12:17 AM

and by the way, is "lawbreaker" also taking "the adjective 'illegal' as shorthand"?

Posted by: arturo fernandez at April 28, 2008 12:57 AM

Greg, illegal immigrants are not scum.

No, Arturo, there is no intent on my part or most people who comment here to de-humanize anyone.

What is your view of Mexico's treatment of illegal immigrants, by the way?

Posted by: Monique at April 28, 2008 1:21 AM

No, but some of them are. Just like some of all of society is.

You can't tell me that the gang members, coyotes, drug runners, rapists, child molesters, murderers, tuberculosis carriers and other ne'er-do-wells are "just here to make a better life for themselves". Those people are scum.

La Raza is here talking 'reconquista'. Those people are scum.

The mother who brings her infant children to America for opportunities isn't scum. But she shouldn't be here and should be sent home just the same.

Posted by: Greg at April 28, 2008 6:44 AM

Lets' all be honest regarding Tobin's intent. The overwhelming majority of illegal aliens are Catholic and as with any good politican the Bishop is pandering to his core constituency. Problem I have with Tobin is his seemingly paper thin skin. Apparently Thomas can dish but Thomas can't take. According to Dan Yorke a rep of the Diocese called WPRO's program director and informed them that Tobin would no longer be available to anyone at the station.
Just how pathetic is that?
Not enough ring kissing at WPRO to suit the good Bishop. Thank 'God' Thomas is all about inclusiveness and finding middle ground. lol


Does calling someone/anyone who opposes illegals being here a 'racist' move the conversation forward? Also what are your thoughts on Mexico's military guarding their border with Guatemala?

Posted by: Tim at April 28, 2008 6:59 AM


La Raza is the Hispanic version of the Klu Klux Klan.

Posted by: Tim at April 28, 2008 7:02 AM

I see La Raza much more like the Nazi Party than the KKK as far as national dangerousness. The Klukies have always been a fringe nutjob organization with exceptionally small amounts of real power who just didn't like blacks or Jews. La Raza is calling for a wholesale insurrection and overthrow of an existing government through a series of clandestine acts.

Posted by: Greg at April 28, 2008 1:02 PM

La Raza is similar to Aryan Nations-they see themselves as "the race of destiny"-their name means "The Race" in Spanish,which is ironic because Hispanics are not a race at all,but more a culture(s) or language linked group.Hispanics can be of white,black,brown,or asian descent.Some Latin American countries issue stamps honoring "The Day of the Race"-imagine that in any other context-there would be non-stop wailing from the ADL,which has their lips planted on La Raza's butt.Why don't the ethnic pimps at SPLC call La Raza a hate group-because Mr.Potok and Mr.Dees are phony scumbags.
Like Mr.Foxman.And what is Rabbi Flam's endgame?Rabbi Flam from lily-white Barrington?Neighbor of Chuck Bakst and Steven Brown?Or Pat Crowley from the town of Lincoln?The only non-whites there are shopping at the Mall or gambling at Twin River.Bunch of F*****N

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 28, 2008 1:39 PM

We all know that if a gay marriage bill (pro or ban) gets on the Statehouse floor, Tobin will be begging Danny Boy for airtime.
And Danny Boy will forgive him as fast as Hillary's forgiven the vast right wing conspiracy.
Gays. Obama. Political expedience.

Posted by: rhody at April 28, 2008 8:31 PM

I don't like the way the bishop sounds.He's like a lot of clergymen-gives me the creeps.I'm not Catholic,but he wants to get involved in legal/political issues his collar means nothing.My wife was raised Catholic,but converted to Protestant and raised our children in that faith.She must've had her reasons.

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 28, 2008 8:49 PM

joe, thank you for pointing out that Hispanics are not a race, but a mixture of races, and Mexicans more so than all other Hispanics, by the way. It is this very important fact that makes La Raza comparisons with the KKK, the Aryan Nations, and the Nazis ridiculous. When Hispanics speak of La Raza they're not excluding white people like (probably) you, Tim, and Greg. I'm tempted to say your equal regard for this perspective to the Nazis' means you approve of the Nazis, and that is what guides your anti-illegal-immigrants obsession. But I won't say that. I don't believe it's malice on your part, just a bad case of paranoia. Aside from small insignificant fringe groups on the left who have no influence on anyone, the only people out there talking about Reconquista is people like you. Hispanics in the US don't care about "taking back" the Southwest, and much less illegal immigrants.

It is understandable that some may think it's racism that motivates the anti-illegal-immigrant side. But I think it's something else. Illegal immigration is caused by things we consider to be good things: (the illegal immigrant's) hard work, (the business person's) entrepreneurship, and (the consumer's) frugality. Americans can't understand that something we don't like (illegal immigration) can be caused by things we admire. There needs to be a bad guy to blame for bad things. This inability to self-reflect is what's causing people like Joe, Tim and Greg to dehumanize good people with words like "illegals," "lawbreakers", and people like Monique and Justin to let them.

Posted by: arturo fernandez at April 28, 2008 9:55 PM


And imagine this: I'm letting you respond to them, too! It's almost as if I'm allowing a conversation to take place without regard to whether it conforms with my beliefs and preferences.

Dastardly, am I!

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 28, 2008 10:09 PM


I was raised nothing, converted to Roman Catholicism, and am raising my children in that faith. I must have my reasons.

I don't really wish to tread an ugly path, but I will say this: I suspect the fact that either your wife never communicated her reason to you, you didn't find it compelling enough to remember, or you aren't willing to express it as seasoning for your comment is not unrelated to her motivation.

Be sure to let me know if ever I give you the creeps. I might find in the observation encouragement that I'm headed in the right direction.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 28, 2008 10:16 PM

Arturo-I can't believe you think I could approve of Nazis-I'd as soon see every one of them dead.Since my background is Jewish,the feeling would be the same on their part.Calling me paranoid is ignorant.My job as an INS agent put me in contact with people of virtually every national origin on a daily basis.When I have travelled abroad I have never had a problem getting along,because I have spent a hell of a lot of time learning about different cultures.My family is basically Hispanic-I sure don't feel paranoid about mty wife,son,or daughter.It's interesting that every Hispanic person I've met from both sides of my wife's family share my views on illegal immigration.My wife has an aunt of Mexican descent who's 88 and not the least bit senile,and she's second generation American herself,and knows very little Spanish-my wife's cousins on that side don't know any.Just like I can't speak Hebrew or Yiddish.I do,however speak Spanish pretty fluently.
You might be surprised to know that about 40% of my Border Patrol class was Hispanic.And this was 32 years ago.I think the percentage is higher today.Do police officers usually dehumanize traffic violators?I doubt it anymore than I ever dehumanized ordinary illegals.Criminal aliens I frankly considered the same kind of garbage that I think of native born criminals.I don't like criminals-they make people's lives miserable.stop trying to psychoanalyze me or the other people here.I don't accuse you of hating American born people.I hesitate to say white people because you, like Ramon Martinez of Progreso Latino or Matt Garcia,the head of Hispanic Studies at Brown,might be a Caucasian Latino-i have no clue.
And one more thing-stop acting like the immigration issue is an Hispanic issue.It is not.Illegal aliens represent every place on Earth.
You never answered my question as to how your country of origin treats the immigration issue.
I definitely have read material from Mecha and Voz de Aztlan that is the most disgusting hate speech imaginable,and I haven't heard it disavowed by La Raza or Lulacs.
Do some research on Google with regard to the stance of the courts on alienage and nationality law.The case I referenced in a post above is pretty clear cut.We cannot ignore the law of the land at the risk of sliding into chaos.Some of the shrillest screaming about racism comes from people with no Hispanic background-leftist agitators like Steven Brown,Pat Crowley,David Segal,and Matt Jerzyk to mention a few locally.Ask Steven Brown if he wants you moving in next door.

Posted by: Joe Bernstein at April 28, 2008 10:44 PM

justin-I didn't say Catholics gave me the creeps-it was clergymen in general-my wife's main reason for converting to Protestantism was what she considered the unecessary hierarchy;the alleged infallibility of any human;and the attitude of the Priests she encountered (ntohing to do with abuse)-in addition she had a problem with the exaltation of Mary to the status she holds in Catholicism..I just go a step further and don't like organized religion-I can believe and pray on my own.My beef with clergymen is that they make something very simple complicated and ritualistic.

Posted by: Joe Bernstein at April 28, 2008 10:54 PM
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