You Know the Heart of an Alien

You Know the Heart of an Alien June 24, 2013

For 40 days between Pentecost and their forthcoming convention, Mennonite Church USA is putting forth daily verses or passages of scripture “to seek God’s heart for immigrants”, which I have been receiving via email from the congregation in which I was baptized.  While I appreciate this biblical theme in itself, one verse in particular reminded me why.  That verse was Exodus 23:9.

You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

This reminder to the people of ancient Israel resonated personally with me as I realized, yes, I do “know the heart of an alien.”  I have lived as an alien in three countries outside of the United States, and I have returned each time to find myself an alien in my country of origin.  Knowing first-hand the value of having a few savvy “cultural brokers” to explain to me why things are done a certain way, and to explain to others that I’m not completely crazy when I make a mistake, I have found deep joy and rich friendships in the opportunities I’ve had to fulfill that role for others – and the benefit has been emphatically mutual.  I am frequently drawn to expatriates, not only because of the immediate connection of the shared experience of foreignness, but also because their presence has so often come as a breath of fresh air when my world is becoming too small.  Such people remind me, without having to say so explicitly, that the world (and no less the Church) is much bigger than America, or wherever one happens to be; and that we are all aliens and sojourners, and this is as it should be.

The Egyptian experience invoked here as the reason for identifying with resident aliens is a thread that runs deep throughout the Torah, and one that bears significant lessons for us today.  A group’s historical memory can be a powerful thing.  That’s why feeling foreign even in one’s homeland is second nature to Mennonites, most of whom would take this as a compliment.  But it wasn’t so long ago, historically speaking, that Catholics were the mistrusted aliens in the United States.  This experience ought to shape our outlook and behavior in the same way the Israelites’ experience in Egypt shaped the Mosaic law.  What I find most striking about the latter is how an overwhelmingly negative historical memory is used as a pointedly positive example.  This memory is constantly reiterated, not as an excuse to feel superior to those who had mistreated them in the past, but as a potent way of driving home the golden rule: remember what it was like to be foreign and marginalized, mistrusted and enslaved.  Welcome the stranger among you as you would have wanted to be welcomed then.

The historical memory that underscores a sense of solidarity with the resident alien thus also underscores the command not to oppress them – or, more positively, to seek their well-being.  Catholic social teaching has consistently applied this biblical mandate in its response to modern globalization, and our bishops continue to follow faithfully in this tradition.  Earlier this month, Archbishop of Los Angeles José Gomez, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration and himself a naturalized citizen, issued this official statement on the congressional debates now taking place on immigration reform.

The Catholic Church in America has an important stake in the outcome of this debate because we are an immigrant church, and have grown with the country for over two hundred years.  Each day in our parishes, social service programs, hospitals, and schools we witness the human consequences of a broken immigration system.  Families are separated, migrant workers are exploited, and our fellow human beings die in the desert.  Without positive change to our immigration laws, we cannot help our brothers and sisters.  Simply put, the status quo is morally unacceptable.  This suffering must end.

Our nation has a stark choice. We can continue on our current path, which employs an immigration system that does not serve the rule of law or the cause of human rights, or we can create a system which honors both principles. We can maintain a system that fosters illegal behavior and undermines the law, or fashion one that provides incentives for legal behavior and is based upon fairness and opportunity.

Our nation must answer several questions.

Do we want a country with a permanent underclass, without the same rights as the majority?

Do we want to continue to separate children from parents, creating a generation of young U.S. citizens who are suspicious and fearful of their government?

Do we want a nation that accepts the toil and taxes of undocumented workers without offering them the protection of the law?

The answer to these questions, of course, is a resounding no.

I encourage our elected officials to move forward and debate immigration reform in a civil and respectful way. The U.S. Catholic bishops are committed to working with them to enact humane immigration reform legislation as soon as possible. In the end, the outcome of this debate will not only affect our nation’s future—it will impact our soul.

This commitment on the part of the bishops is only natural, and the rest of us are called to follow their lead.  Because as long as the Church is truly catholic, she will always know the heart of an alien.

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  • ivankauffman

    One of your best. Written from the heart. And the soul. And from history.

  • trellis smith

    Yes heart but how much head is being used in the present debates?The immigration bill before Congress and supported by the bishops does not do anything that will solve the fundamental threat to the nation which is unchecked immigration and essentially open borders. It is an amnesty along the lines of 1986 which utterly failed in its promises and objectives and paved the way to the starker choices before us today, Furthermore hidden in its provisions will increase over only 10 years legal immigration for 33 million above the 11 million illegals. This is a recipe for disaster. Every attempt to stabilize our population is thwarted by increases as a result of immigration, Much of that stems mostly from a non functioning government and poor structural economy south of our border which has addressed its problems and carrying capacity by encouraging illegal immigration to the North. Is there a universal right to irresponsibly procreate? Are those nations and their peoples that populate beyond their resources owed support by everyone else? What measure of justice is afforded to those who are cutoff in line and to what degree are we incentivizing disregard for our laws that seek a balance and ordered approach to our borders?

    On every front average Americans are losing the battle for an environment and over all affluence that our grandparents took for granted. Especially the working class, as the extolled budget office report rather ironically makes clear as well as ultra-liberal Bernie Saunders (I-VT) who calls S. 744 a cheap labor ploy that would benefit major corporations but hurt unemployed Americans. On the environmental front, a simple example. California’s vaunted 10 year old recycling program despite an initial decline now exceeds its projected landfill tonnages.

    By all means let us have a full debate and give it the time to unfurl rather than rushed and rammed through by misguided special interests or self interested corporate moguls.
    Those pursuing a debate based on guilt and a vale of tears removed from objectivity would seek to import the overpopulation of the world and all that entails here,Already we are the third most populous country after China and India with California fast approaching the density of China. Is this the despoiled land and country anticipated and a degraded citizenry envisioned??
    “In considering the plight of much of the earth’s human population”, Robert Alcorn wrote, “compassion without logic is simply disaster delayed. Attempting to accommodate increasing numbers of people by reducing share of resources is a short-term measure, not a solution. Stabilizing, then reducing human population levels around the world while helping those willing to help themselves by developing their own economies and insisting on good government in their homelands is a solution.”

    I maybe wrong but I don’t see how in this debate and for that matter in any serious discussion on Creation the bishops are committed to an overall humane solution but are actually absent from it, thinking magically and are setting us up for a fall.

    • Julia Smucker

      So, immigrants are at fault for … having too many children? I shouldn’t have to tell you that you’re skating on thin ice with regard to Church teaching by characterizing procreation as irresponsibility. I do thank you, though, for showing us how these issues are connected. It comes down to human dignity, as it so often does in CST: the foreigner who enters a country and the child who enters the world are to be welcomed as bearers of the inviolable imago Dei. This doesn’t mean that those who actually threaten public safety should never be deported or denied entry, but they are the exceptions (and should still be treated with respect for their human dignity in any case).

      And yes, according to the Catechism, those nations that lack the resources to support their populations’ basic needs are owed support by those that have such resources. CCC 2241 in full:

      The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.

      Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.

      This leaves some room for debate on how specific measures assist the mutual obligations of immigrants and their host countries, so if you want to debate the logic of the immigration reform bill, go ahead – with the understanding that any such debate among faithful Catholics should be conducted on the premise of these obligations, and of universal human dignity.

      By the way, I think the social encyclicals would agree with Alcorn on reducing the need for migration by helping others develop their own economies and insist on good government as a long-term solution, though not necessarily on population reduction (at least, it would depend on the goals and measures being respectful of life). Come to think of it, Brett wrote a pretty thoughtful reflection (here) a couple of years ago on the population question.

  • Jordan

    1+(10^100). Excellent.

    Julia: This memory is constantly reiterated, not as an excuse to feel superior to those who had mistreated them in the past, but as a potent way of driving home the golden rule: remember what it was like to be foreign and marginalized, mistrusted and enslaved.

    The arrival of Catholicism and Catholics in the social and political spheres has not been without cost. The town I grew up in was established as a planned community centered around an Episcopal cathedral. A Protestant ascendancy survived until the middle of the last century, when Catholics surpassed Protestants demographically. Now the town is at least 80% Catholic.

    The majority, once a (very mildly) persecuted minority, has forgotten its time as stranger. In a evil twist of fate, some years ago the now bishop emeritus of the Episcopal diocese was summarily pulled over by a cop less than a mile from his cathedra. Broken turn signal? No, merely the audacity to drive while African-American in a very heavily white community. The bishop was released only after the bishop produced evidence of his authority.

    Do I believe that this incident derives heavily from sectarian issues? No. Racism and confession are most often independent variables. I would say though that a community which displays a very strong homogenity strongly risks becoming Pharaoh. The risk of a Girardian mimetic crisis requires “scapegoats”. Indeed, a large and organized national determination to objectify immigrants similarly forms itself into a Pharaoh of former strangers, desperately grasping for a false security by forming a straw “illegal”.

  • trellis smith

    I’ll agree I am skating on thin ice but so are you. We all are, as the lifeboat has been taking on water for some time now. The very dignity we value and wish to preserve are under threat by the very ones we value and dignify. In short as you have no doubt heard we have met the enemy and it is us.
    Are the teachings of the Church amounting to ” every sperm is sacred” contributing to a rational discussion? Do you think to procreate without thinking to the provision of your child is responsible? Or that teen pregnancies are desirable? I acknowledge the issue is more complex in arriving at stable population growth but the facts remain that unchecked immigration is the reason for our population increases. California receives about 21 percent of the nation’s flood of immigration, the state’s numbers look a little different, with an astounding one in four Californians being foreign-born. In addition, nearly all of our state’s growth is now due to immigration and higher-than-average fertility rates among new immigrants. If current legal and illegal immigration trends continue, an estimated 60 million people will inhabit California by 2050. Any serious discussion takes these overwhelming numbers into account not only for the dignity of the imago Dei but for all of Creation as also a reflection of God for which I submit the bishops have taken little account and have even disparaged the theologies that do in total disregard for the facts of our biological interrelation, interdependence and inherent moral obligations towards Creation as its stewards.

    For what its worth no nation on earth recognizes a right to immigrate separate from the expressed needs and good of the nation. Indeed how many legal let alone illegal immigrants are harbored in the Vatican? At best the bishops policies as in the statement you cite are in tension. I see these policies as expressed by Cardinal Mahoney as incoherent and contradictory and apparent in your citation,” Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption.”
    The common good and safety of the nation requires a return from mass immigration to more moderate immigration levels. The suppression of illegal immigration falls well within the juridical conditions placed upon immigrants Illegal immigration by its very nature undermines all juridical conditions. Also in reference to the bishops statement, the burdens of illegal immigration far surpass citizens let alone the immigrants capacity to assist with that burden. And the reconquista movement hardly respects “with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country….”

    Amnesty has proven to be an ineffective tool for immigration control nor is it required as a condition of social justice. I would like to see what concrete measures regarding immigration you would propose that supports the common good. I do not see how the bishops and your support of open borders does anything but the opposite.

    • Julia Smucker

      What the bishops are advocating, as you may gather from Abp. Gomez’s statement and others available through their website, is reform of the national immigration system that would encourage rule of law and family unity, among other things. The politically charged language you are using here does not reflect a solid understanding of the position that Gomez, Dolan and their brother bishops have articulated. If you want to make a substantive and reasoned critique of anything they have actually said, or of the immigration legislation being debated in congress, be my guest.

      Meanwhile, I will simply recommend that such a discussion in a Catholic forum be considered from the perspective of the Church first and State second, rather than vice-versa.

      • Is the Catholic Church in favour of collapsing the nation of Mexico, in order to meet her own moral standard of what is humane treatment of the “guest”? It seems to me that it would equally meet the Church’s standard for social and economic justice to insist that immigrants come from countries that treat their own poor and minorities fairly, and THEN do something to assist those countries to do just that.

        Of course, it’s the same old story: justice and human dignity cost MONEY, and that MONEY has to come from somewhere, so how about out of the pockets of those who SAY that they are so interested in preserving local culture, traditions and languages?

        Here I’m only suggesting that the MONEY that will preserve a decent and humane environment for the present population of Americans must be spent on countries that would otherwise VOMIT their “socially undesirables” into America. America, in my opinion, actually has a “national security interest” in creating social stability and economic justice in the countries from which most of the immigrants are coming, and the hierarchy of a Church that is international has, in my opinion, a duty to be preaching THAT, rather then taking a morally grandiose but uncharitably impractical stand.

        • Julia Smucker

          As I have already pointed out in response to Trellis, Catholic social teaching does indeed propose “creating social stability and economic justice in the countries from which most of the immigrants are coming”. This is an important long-term approach to the problems that lead many people to migrate out of necessity. But this does not absolve us of the moral obligation to welcome the stranger in the meantime. It’s not an either/or.

      • trellis smith

        How are the bishops encouraging the rule of law by making legal what is illegal? They are advocating amnesty which rewards law breaking. I’ve already addressed the incoherence of the position you cited. I don’t think i have misstated or misapprehended their position. I believe the Bishops positions are likewise politically charged which in itself I do not find problematic. What I do find problematic is what they ignore and their inability to grapple with the inconvenient truths of unchecked immigration into this country. To recommend that I consider the implications of the Church’s positions from its perspective versus the state seems nothing more than a desire to keep the subject of immigration rather abstract.

        • Julia Smucker

          First of all, show me where the bishops are “advocating amnesty” as you are defining it.

          Secondly, what is legal should be judged on the basis of what is moral, not the other way around. That is what it means to think first and foremost from the perspective of the Church. It is not a mere abstraction of the subject; it simply means that, for the Church (and consequently for each of her members, if they are being faithfully catholic), catholicity is greater than nationality. We must of course seek the welfare of the polis in which we are sojourning, but to give greater loyalty to national interests than to the Church universal crosses a line into idolatry.

        • trellis smith

          It is an abstraction in much the same way as an unfunded mandate. It does not grapple with the costs. On one hand it posits an absolute right to immigrate and on the other recognizes the common good that should thwart that absolute right rendering the position a meaningless contradiction. I actually recognize nations as means but not as abstractions so I do not worship them so much as I recognize that they do exist and have to deal with real live choices everyday.
          A simple illustration; Every morning I take the bus. In the back of the bus is a typical chinese grandmother surrounded by large bags reeking of garbage of recyclables.
          She is part of a informal network of raiders of residential blue bins that steal cans for a refund. This costs the city over 5 million/year in lost revenues. Garbage rates are slated to go up and I get to take a garbage truck to work. On every score this woman has violated the law yet who amongst us will act to stop her. Today there were two chinese grandmothers. now what do you do or at what point do you act. I know I will soon be walking.

          • Julia Smucker

            To look at a Chinese grandmother rooting through the garbage for recyclables for her livelihood and see only an “illegal” strikes me as loosely analogous to the Pharisee who looked at a formerly paralytic man carrying his mat and saw only a Sabbath-breaker.

        • trellis smith

          “Secondly, what is legal should be judged on the basis of what is moral, not the other way around.” i agree and believe that my position stems from a more comprehensive moral base contingent on the reality on the ground whereas the bishops posit an absolute right to immigrate that if implemented has real immoral consequences.

          • Julia Smucker

            I was referring to your habit of judging the morality of immigration according to currently existing laws, and of referring to human beings as if they could be intrinsically and irredeemably illegal. If those are your working assumptions, then you’d have to conclude that even reforming current laws to make illegal immigration unnecessary would only be “legalizing the illegals”, but that anthropology is morally flawed.

        • trellis smith

          I have no idea if she is illegal, she mostly likely isn’t, nor do i romanticize her. She may be making a good buck -5 million is no chump change but she probably is poor and her poverty has costs and the state has to grapple with that reality with increased taxes and low bus ridership. And because everyone including the bus driver sees her as a real person no one will act except the state when it realizes its coffers are bare. My real life illustration is not a reduction to the absurd but the demonstration of over population and its effects . The economies of garbage will soon run out for this woman as she is joined in greater numbers and she will be reduced to further poverty

          • Julia Smucker

            Do you mean to suggest that her being seen as a real person is the problem???

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO


    A couple things struck me in your posts that I want to respond to. Let me preface my comments by noting that I have written extensively about over-population on this blog and have jousted amiably with my fellow bloggers on this problem. It is a serious issue which needs to be addressed as world population heads for 9 billion people by 2050.

    Having said that, I think you are distorting matters by blaming them on “irresponsible procreation” south of the border. Fertility rates in Mexico have been declining for more than a decade and (according to the CIA) stand at about 2.2; by comparison in the US they have been roughly stable at 2.05 for a similar period. Central America have higher fertility rates, but their populations are so much smaller that they can only have a secondary impact on US population.

    Second, you blame the economic woes of the middle and working class on immigration: “On every front average Americans are losing the battle for an environment and over all affluence that our grandparents took for granted.” However, as my colleague Morning’s Minion has repeatedly noted, this is a very complex issue and a good case can be made that the loss of affluence can be blamed on regressive redistribution of wealth upwards. Environmental degradation is a real problem, but it seems to me that we “natives” have been doing just fine on destroying the environment on our own. Given that we are short-sighted enough to demand an unsustainable life-style, we cannot then turn around and condemn our poorer neighbors for wanting to share it.

    Third, it seems to me that you are avoiding the one of the main issues that the current immigration debate is trying to solve: what to do about the approximately 10 million undocumented aliens currently living and working in the US? A substantial number of have been here for years and they are de facto, if not de jure, Americans. They have jobs, pay taxes, send their kids to school and are part of the over all community. The bishops affirm, and I strongly agree, that deporting them is not an option. We can therefore either leave them in the shadows or we can do something to allow them to become de jure residents and then citizens.

    • trellis smith


      I am not condemning anyone for wanting an American way of life and I appreciate that the problem is complex and further acknowledge that the primary fault lies with the concentration of wealth in the Mexican elites that starve their own people that causes them to leave. But the system for what it is cannot support its population and therefore is overpopulated , A situation that as you rightly point out is making in roads here. But there is no incentive to change the situation in Mexico as long as illegal immigration continues unchecked and the American way of life seems within reach.

      None of that changes the fact that immigration is the single greatest reason for our rate and overall growth in population. You cannot address environmental degradation species loss etc without addressing over population. Checking growth in immigration is key to rescuing the environment all other factors are insignificant in comparison and will ultimately show little improvement if over population is not dealt with. Making more Americans requires more earths than we have currently in possession.

      Amnesties, reward lawbreaking.
      Historically, each time the U.S. government enacted an amnesty, illegal immigration numbers increased sharply thereafter.
      The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 granted amnesty to 2.7 million illegal aliens. The purpose of IRCA was to lower illegal immigration just like the bishops are advocating. Instead, illegal immigration increased fivefold, from around 140,000 per year in the 1980s to 700,000 per year today.
      Granting amnesty would allow access to taxpayer-funded services such as welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, and MediCal, for millions of illegal aliens.
      One study found that the net cost to the federal government of granting amnesty to 3.8 million illegal aliens would average $5,000 per household, for a total cost of $19 billion.
      Congress is currently considering offering amnesty to the estimated 12-20 million illegal aliens living in the United States no one knows the real number.
      Granting amnesty to illegal immigrants would open the door to many more newcomers, as each person granted citizenship could bring over his/her family—legally. Simply bringing the parents of each new citizen here would mean allowing another 24-40 million people to settle in the United States. This is what the bishops advocate.
      Currently, one-tenth of the flow of legal immigrants to the United States are parents of naturalized recent immigrants.
      All parents of naturalized immigrants would be eligible for citizenship—and therefore also be eligible for Medicaid and Social Security benefits, for a total cost to the U.S. government of $18,000 per person.
      Over all CIS estimates that granting amnesty will cost 6 trillion dollars.
      Are these costs acceptable to you?

      A strategy of attrition through enforcement could reduce the illegal population by as many as 1.5 million illegal aliens each year. Currently about 183,000 illegal aliens per year depart without the intervention of immigration officials, according to DHS statistics.

      • Julia Smucker

        If the proverbial “American way of life” is not sustainable for the entire world, then the problem is one of wasteful lifestyle, rather than of immigration or even necessarily of numbers, as Brett suggested in the post I linked to in an earlier comment. We may be loath to sacrifice some of the creature comforts we’ve grown accustomed to, but I don’t see any alternative (regardless of the immigration situation) other than the callous argument that unjust distribution is a global necessity – which is still unsustainable in the long run.

        And please, drop the amnesty straw-man. Nobody here is talking about rewarding lawbreaking (though I would point out that we should be considering morality as a standard for judging existing laws rather than vice-versa), and neither are the bishops. In fact, one of the problems with the current system is that it incentivizes exploitative labor practices in the hiring of undocumented workers. Gomez’s statement alluded to this and explicitly mentioned the need for a just immigration system that encourages rule of law.

        • trellis smith

          Yes I am loathe to sacrifice creature comforts of unpolluted skies, fresh water, open space and the flourishing of species, flora and fauna. These are a part of the American way of life and especially of the American West and what was once California that are worthy of preservation. (I have always been amazed at the attitudes of certain academics supportive of immigration who advocate building up the West along the lines of the despoiled East coast) And as I pointed out no matter what you do to combat the wasteful aspects of the economic life, you are fighting a losing battle on all fronts unless you delimit human populations. You cannot address the miseries of the world resulting from overpopulation by importing them here without further impoverishing the most vulnerable members of our society.
          The bishops support the legalization of illegal immigrants- call it what you may it is still amnesty. It is not a straw-man argument. Furthermore the bishops support an increase in legal immigration under the provisions of the immigration bill along with chain migration that will make any illegal immigration unnecessary and for all intents and purposes achieve an open border policy.

          • Julia Smucker

            This is getting really convoluted. The idea that the American-born have some kind of exclusive right to the country’s flora and fauna is thoroughly uncatholic and betrays a historical nearsightedness. As I mentioned in the original post, it was only a century or two ago that Catholics were on the wrong end of that kind of nativism. “You know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens….” Environmental degradation is a legitimate concern (and one that Pope Benedict often spoke about), but to deflect responsibility to the “permanent underclass” being created by a flawed immigration system is both unjust and absurd.

            And how is making illegal immigration unnecessary suddenly a bad thing? Isn’t that what we both want? We need to remember that “illegal” is not an ontological state of being. Preborn babies also have a lesser legal status in the eyes of the State – but nobody’s legal status makes their lives any less of value. No solution to environmental or population problems that considers any category of humanity as intrinsically expendable can be morally permissible.

        • trellis smith

          The influx of populations is not sustainable and access to what makes life worth living will be unavailable to all which will be catholic in one sense, Furthermore it is a hubristic quality that we all share that assumes the earth we inhabit is somehow separate and apart from who we are and can be so exploited and occupied at will rather then a web of interdependencies to which we owe an enormous responsibility not only for our own survival but of all species. Therein lies our true intrinsic value.
          Never have I said that a human being does not possess intrinsic value nor advocated treating anyone less humanly based on their legal or criminal status. But you and the bishops that are failing to call this immigration bill for what it is and to identify the costs that legalizing illegals and engage in word games that avoid the truth of what is amnesty and open borders. Immigration is the cause of our overpopulation and nothing short than a willingness to import misery and poverty and further environmental degradation to our shores.

          For my small part I live simply so others may simply live and acknowledge quite legitimately
          the excesses of the economic lifestyle and waste of American industrial production that serves as a beacon to this migration. But no matter what we do without stopping population growth human life itself though of intrinsic value will be diminished and starker choices will augment. That is both/and.

    • I seriously doubt that very many Catholics in America are for “deporting” our co-religionists, but what those of us who are concerned about certain kinds of undesirable immigration do want is a more selective policy.

      And, having said that, let me inform you that I believe that policy should include so close a scrutiny of VALUES that it would exclude some very rich Indians I’m acquainted with who’d import their caste system and its scorn of the poor into America, with no questions asked by the immigration officials who are, supposedly, charged with the responsibility of keeping out the “undocumented.”

      Those very rich Asians I know would do absolutely nothing to help us to build a socially just or “colour-blind” society, but they sure do want to come here, to participate in our “open and free market.”

  • Jordan

    trellis smith [June 25, 2013 3:36 pm]: And the reconquista movement hardly respects “with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country….”

    I find the use of the term “reconquista” to be rather pernicious. “Reconquista” implies that the struggle between Americans (born or naturalized) and undocumented or underdocumented immigrants carries a significance well beyond economic or political considerations. Yes, economic and geographic power compelled Aragon and Castile to battle with the Almoravids. However, the northern kingdoms viewed the Berbers to the south as a direct, even apocalyptic, threat to the existence of Christianity in Iberia. Crimes of humanity were sublimated (in the eyes of combatants) into a struggle for ideological permanence.

    “Reconquista” as ideology betrays nativism, which in turn objectifies undocumented immigrants as a perceived existential threat to comfortable racist presumptions (“all those babies!” paging Margaret Sanger…) and linguistic xenophobia. These are the variables at stake, not a population bomb scare.

    My mother’s decendants probably fought for the Union. My skin is sunburn fair, eyes bright blue. No way are you getting ahead of me on the taquería truck line. I won’t ask the chef to show his or her papers, but I will certainly sputter a broken Spanish compliment.

    • trellis smith

      Reconquista is a pernicious ideology as promulgated by the Mexican elites as justification for the miserable state of affairs in Mexico, not necessarily as some nativist angst. Demographically it will be achieved as the latino populations will hold majorities in California and Texas. However I agree with you if there ever were a demographic change due to an influx of immigrants one could not wish for one better than that of the hispanic heritage. (compare that to the European influx of Muslim populations and the existential threat that imposes) The facts of population growth I have reiterated are not a scare, scary as they may be and are not grounded in xenophobia or racism And as unfortunate that those bedfellows be, the facts and the experience of loss of the irreplaceable cannot be cast aside. Nothing that I have put forth in this regard can factually contradict that the US and Europe must hold fast against mass immigrations or nothing can be done. A reasonable debate would take these facts and concerns to heart, address how those values are respected or must be compromised. If in the United States were to grant this amnesty, we should acknowledge the costs (most gravely to the poor) as well as the benefits you recognize.
      One result must be absolute suppression of illegal immigration and immediate cessation of ALL immigration until the costs can be assimilated. And that too will be a high cost.

  • Jordan

    re: trellis smith [June 26, 2013 1:41 pm]: Trellis, have you ever vacationed on a cruise ship? One popular activity of cruise vacationers is eating. Yes, I have intentionally characterized eating as an activity, not unlike shuffleboard or nickel slots. On a cruise ship one may well eat all day if he or she pleases, but the dinner buffets in particular groan with seemingly endless food platters which cannot be consumed even by several thousand passengers. Where does the unconsumed food go? duc in altum, but sinisterly perverted.

    When in Medjugorje, I chose to stay in a small family pension rather than one of the developed world spec German hotels. One day, a few in our group mentioned that they always hold the Friday fast. When this request was translated into Croatian, she knit her brows and wished us well before Mass. On return for dinner I noticed that we were served packaged fishcakes. Afterwards I was told that the host had searched all day for the fish. Is not this sacrifice significant for a woman who has few modern conveniences, and whose neighbors hoe their soil as if from a Dürer woodcut? Would you fulfill this request out of a fear the loss of business, rather than the possibility of unfulfilled charity?

    Trellis: One result must be absolute suppression of illegal immigration and immediate cessation of ALL immigration until the costs can be assimilated. And that too will be a high cost.

    Americans a grossly laden buffet people rather than a fishcake people. Many undocumented immigrants live in effective thralldom just so that many Americans, myself included, can gorge themselves on an Edwardian feast of non-necessities. The “cost” of immigration is not monetary. The “cost” is the possible loss of sybaritic lifestyles simply because we, as a nation, refuse to cast the net of opportunity more widely.

  • trellis smith

    You are grossly distorting my position. I do not view illegal as ontological nor have I implied as such.
    However so grave the consequences that the penalty for immigrating illegally will be the impossibility to legally immigrate if not true already
    . I will not be able to engage further and have tried to answer directly and would appreciate a direct answer.Given the failure of the 1986 Immigration act also known as amnesty,how does this present bill prevent population increases?

    • Julia Smucker

      Here is where I see you using “illegal” in an ontological sense:

      How are the bishops encouraging the rule of law by making legal what is illegal?


      The bishops support the legalization of illegal immigrants.

      First of all, people are not illegal; certain acts are, and that is subject to change. So if legal recourse is provided for something that had been done illegally, it is no longer illegal – unless the act in question is intrinsically illegal in nature such that a change in legal status doesn’t actually make a difference, which is completely nonsensical. I will be relieved if you can demonstrate that I have read you wrong.

      Population increase in a given country is another question (we’re not talking about global population increase in this case), but it does not negate the obligation of “more prosperous nations … to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin” – nor that of immigrants “to obey [the host country’s] laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens” – nor that of the international community to address the social, economic and political problems in countries from which people find it necessary to emigrate.

      • trellis smith

        Very good. To rephrase; By effectively giving amnesty by not requiring Illegal immigrants to follow the same procedures as legal immigrants the bishops are contenancing illegal immigration and undermining the laws The penalty for attempting to immigrate illegally into the country is a ten year disbarment from entering legally, a second attempt is permanent disbarment. Based on experience with the Immigration Reform Act of 1986 Illegality will be encouraged.
        We are only restating our positions perhaps someone else can clear the impasse. So I’ll conclude under the guise of some invented and overly broad and absolute right to immigrate the bishops would condemn California to overpopulation and Europe to cultural suicide for all the reasons I have ennumerated The illegal immigration from Mexico has been going on for decades and nothing has been done. This right the bishops espouse will only encourage the sense of entitlement. Americans have made a decision to limit births to preserve the country for their posterity and the foreign born are standing by to overwhelm the gains made and to lose the future.

        • Julia Smucker

          Trellis, you are probably right that we are at an impassible impasse, but I honestly want to ask how an exclusive right to the country’s resources on the part of those born here reflects any less a sense of entitlement. It’s hard to see that as anything other than a double standard with a bias toward the more affluent society, which would be pretty hard to reconcile with either scripture or the magisterium.

        • trellis smith

          In short I don’t.
          I see in an earlier post how what i said was misconstrued
          “The idea that the American-born have some kind of exclusive right to the country’s flora and fauna is thoroughly uncatholic and betrays a historical nearsightedness”
          My point was that the overpopulation caused by unrestricted immigration will cause these to disappear and there will nothing left for anyone.
          This is not about the economic waste or sybaritic hedonism that Jordan seems to think infects the American people and American way of life, to me at least here that is old news. This is about the Russian River Valley, Lake Tahoe, and the solitudes of Buena Vista, the functioning of our education, services and livability of the city not a nativist rant. But California is my home and home to many of diverse backgrounds. It is also home to a splendid variety of species. We and this way of life are threatened by an infux of populations. What do we sacrifice for just one more human being?
          I only know the bishops are being disingenuous in not speaking to this reality and if not them then their bedfellows are engaging in as George Orwell famously wrote, “…political speech and writing (that is) largely the defense of the indefensible.”

  • trellis smith

    Gibbons said that he never made the mistake of arguing with anyone whose opinion he did not respect. (let that be a warning to you to whom I don’t respond…lol) Thank you for your time.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO


    “Reconquista is a pernicious ideology as promulgated by the Mexican elites as justification for the miserable state of affairs in Mexico,”

    Where on earth is this coming from? A pair of Mexican writers make reference to the Reconquista, and suddenly it becomes an ideological tool of the “Mexican elites”? Frankly, that is a stretch and I am aware of NO evidence to support this. Here in the US there are a handful of Chicano studies scholars who prattle about Aztlan, the Reconquista and the like, but I am not aware of anyone who takes them seriously. (Well, with the exception that it makes a good in joke, along the lines of the Catholics in Northern Ireland who used to joke that they were “f**king their way to a political majority.”) You are more likely to find references to the Reconquista on the websites of nativist and white supremacist organizations.

  • trellis smith

    My response to Jordon concurs with your assessment in that the reconquista is largely culturally influential and demographic.

    As a pernicious political ideology it is embraced by the Mexican National Will facist organization and veiled references to the ideology are echoed in the government.
    And some are not so veiled:
    Fox, while speaking in Chicago on June 16, 2004, revealed his vision of the territorial boundaries of Mexico when he said: “We are Mexicans that live in our territories and we are Mexicans that live in other territories. In reality, we are 120 million people [100 million in Mexico and the rest in America] that live together and are working to construct a nation.”

    Fox’s predecessor, Ernesto Zedillo, proclaimed on July 27, 1997 that: “I have proudly affirmed that the Mexican nation extends beyond the territory enclosed by its borders and that Mexican migrants are an important – a very important – part of it.”

    A June 12, 2002 Zogby International Poll, “… 58 percent of Mexicans in Mexico believed that the American Southwest belongs to them and 57 percent believed that they do not require U.S. permission to enter this country.” i think that qualifies at least as a prevalent attitude.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Trellis, to pass from “Mexican elites” to El Frente Nacional is quite a leap: they are so marginal as to play no role in mainstream Mexican culture. As for Fox and Zedillo, there is a far less threatening reading of their speeches: they were simply acknowledging that Mexicans in the immigrant diaspora are still Mexicans, who were continue to make major contributions to their homeland. For many years Mexico marginalized people who emigrated (e.g., denying them the right to vote even though they remained citizens); this began to change in the 1990’s and my reading of these speeches is that they were part of this drive. (Particularly Fox’s speech, since he was speaking in Chicago, home of a very large ex pat community.)

    This is no different than Ireland appealing to Irish Americans, or Israel holding that all jews everywhere are automatically citizens of Israel.

    With regards to the polling data: this needs to be understood against the historical backdrop that for large portions of the 20th century, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans did pass back and forth regularly and with little or no hindrance. In particular, migrant farm labor would come north during the growing season and then return home for the off season. Or families that settled in the United States would go south to live/work for extended periods.

    All of this aside however, let me come back to your original point:

    “And the reconquista movement hardly respects “with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country….” ”

    You were trying to use the “reconquista movement” to tar Mexican-American immigrants, vaguely implying that they were part of some larger movement to “take over” the US. For the reasons I have laid out, I am not buying it.

    • trellis smith

      No David I am tarring the Mexican eltes as expressed in government. Which time and time again insinuates itself into American politics and governance.The prevalent sense of entitlement in the Mexican polity and well articulated by the government should not be a cause of concern whatever its origins? That the threats of the Mexican government regarding our immigration policies are as meaningless as they are without merit? President Zedillo actually said that “We will not tolerate foreign forces dictating and enacting laws on Mexicans’ regarding American immigration laws proposed in 1996.”
      The truth is mass immigration of illegal immigrants is restricting American sovereignty right now. Are illegal immigrants Americans or aspiring Americans or do they remain citizens of Mexico for whom the government in Mexico ostensively speaks or worse continually inserts itself in our identity politcs and claims to speak for all Hispanics? Why then is Mexico encouraging bilingual education in our schools as our elites buy into a confused multiculturalism that Mexican immigrants don’t even want.

      Sovereignty is important and meaningful only if exercised in the preservation of its lands and people. I maintain the mass immigration and the craven capitulation of our politicians and post nationalist elites has already changed the realities of our sovereignty and laid the groundwork of a truly despoiled country.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Trellis, I want to come back to two points I made above that you did not respond to.

    First, much of your argumentation is based on the presumption that large waves of immigration from Mexico and Central America will continue, and that these will be further encouraged by immigration reform. But as I noted above, birth rates are dropping steadily throughout the region; in particular in Mexico they are at replacement level (2.1 births per fertile woman); the long term demographic trends will be against emigrating. We are already seeing this: immigration from Mexico peaked years ago and has been steadily declining. Last year, according to the Pew Hispanic forum, net immigration from Mexico was 0: a few hundred thousand came, but equal numbers returned home. So it is not clear that there is grounds for alarmist thinking on this subject.

    Second, and closely related: in all of this you have not said how you would deal with the reality of 10 million or more undocumented aliens living and working in the US. You have complained about their purported cost (a much contested question—my best reading of the studies is that it is about a wash) and their impact on the environment, but you have not said what should be done about them. They are all around you, they are part of our society and our economy, but they are forced to live in the margins: as the bishops put it, they are a permanent underclass.

    So what should be done about them? The pathway to citizenship acknowledges that they are here. It also recognizes that they broke the law (a misdemeanor) in the way they arrived. There are delays, requirements for paying back taxes and some fines. If this is not adequate, then what do you want to do about them? If you think we should round them up and deport them, at least come out and say so. If not this, then what?

  • trellis smith

    Interpretations of the Pew study suggest the results you cite are a reflection of the poor economic conditions in the US and high unemployment here compared to less the 5% presently in Mexico. However, historically the rate is lower as pay is debased so I don’t believe that a reduced birth rate will necessarily stem the migration. Real economic progress along all sectors and growth in Mexico is what will turn the tide. A reduced birth rate may indicate that is occurring. The political reform so hoped for in Calderone must be ongoing and an eradication of a culture of illegality and corruption uncovered by a drug war more violent than that in iraq, has to achieved and the circle of causes and effects broken through. The bishops of Mexico could well serve in guiding this as an active spur but this would take great courage as no doubt they would risk assassination.
    Ironically if Mexico achieves a society akin to present Chile, something well within its reach I would actually support a freer market and political union between Mexico, the US and Canada akin to Europe with freer movement of people and capital. This would render illegal immigration mute. The union would of course adopt the Mexican model of immigration reform which has the most effective policies of North America and deports more people than the US. Illegal immigration into Mexico is a felony and enforcement authority is broad as the Secretary of Governance may “suspend or prohibit the admission of foreigners when he determines it to be in the national interest.” A full reading of the immigration laws of Mexico truly demonstrates the hypocrisy on the part of Mexican government officials seeking to relax our own.

    As I stated in my first response “a strategy of attrition through enforcement could reduce the illegal population by as many as 1.5 million illegal aliens each year. Currently about 183,000 illegal aliens per year depart without the intervention of immigration officials, according to DHS statistics.”
    In enforcing the law I would actually be opposed to active deportation except for serious crimes similar to what Julia supports (something which s744 fails at miserably) and generally favor a reduced police involvement except as noted. All serious crimes resulting in conviction must continue to bar permanently such felons. I support documented guest workers as they are true migrants (migratory) subject to special supervision ensuring adequate safety, pay and accommodation as one would truly treat a guest rather than exploit a slave. I favor a policy of benign neglect in regards to any illegal immigrant engaged in self employment as such immigrants mitigate the societal burden of their immigration. Similarly i oppose a great wall of china to keep out the mongols as a great waste of money and an insult to Mexicans (and as the joke goes. whose labor would build it anyway?) as if the fault doesn’t lie within ourselves.
    On that end I would be rigorous. Anyone who knowingly employs (not contracts) illegal immigrants must be accorded meaningful sanctions. A national E Verify program must be mandated for all businesses no matter how small. Severe sanctions have to be imposed including permanent disbarment for falsification or theft of documentation for purposes of gaining employment.
    I favor a strict interpretation of the 14th amendment, putting an end to automatic birthright citizenship. The true intent of the 14th amendment would not grant citizenship to children born in the US whose parents are not citizens or resident legal aliens on the pathway to citizenship.
    Eliminate “chain” migration by limiting “family reunification” to spouses and minor children of legal immigrants.
    Reduce legal immigration to traditional levels and eliminate HB1 visas except for training with pay purposes
    Reduce foreign pressure to immigrate to the United States by at least funding family planning assistance in other countries.

    I would not grant amnesty until these and other measures are in place AND produce results which is pretty much the reverse of s744 passed in the Senate. Most Americans want enforcement first as they are and have every right to be suspicious of their politicians (a treasonable lot as any) Furthermore I would limit amnesty retroactive to 5 years or more, dependent on positive migration patterns as you cite and further limited by less than 1 million a year commencing with those here the longest and subject to suspension or abeyance by the President if in the national interest.

    On the population front i would do more and preface that by saying i see no right to procreate on a finite planet but would be interested in your views of practical measures in reversing the over population of the United States and how Church teachings are either beneficial or detrimental in this regard.

  • trellis smith

    One addendum in reply to “First, much of your argumentation is based on the presumption that large waves of immigration from Mexico and Central America will continue, and that these will be further encouraged by immigration reform.. but the long term demographic trends will be against emigrating. We are already seeing this: immigration from Mexico peaked years ago and has been steadily declining…”
    Projections from Mexico’s 2008 National Population Council under various factors, barring American intervention, anticipate 3.5 to 5 million emigrants to the United States every decade till 2030.

  • trellis smith

    Julia just FYI This article shows the frustration of a liberal TA Frank on how s744 serves the American elite and disservices the poor and the aspiring.

    its behind a pay barrier which you may get around but a current article available in the Nation.

    • Julia Smucker

      Not being a “liberal”, and not sharing his assumption of a US birthright that grants the American-born a greater natural right to a livelihood than anyone else, I am unconvinced. I freely admit that I was biased against his position before I started reading, and I do of course share his concerns about domestic poverty, but I refuse to make it a zero-sum game between the poor in America and the poor everywhere else.

  • trellis smith

    I cited the article to merely cast the issue in a non partisan light.Nationalism conveys no natural right as such but post nationalism is chaos and is an abdication of resposibility..
    I do not think it has to be a zero sum game but if we import the poor here we only to make everyone poorer entrenching the underclass accompanied with a devastation of environments, a breakdown of systems and government.then we are not really addressing the true origins of the problem and undermining our own capacity to address the issue except with despair.

    • Julia Smucker

      Suddenly I wonder if we may be getting somewhere. Are you agreeing with Archbishop Gomez that the status quo on immigration (which includes the breakup of families, the exploitation of migrant workers, people dying in the attempt to cross the border, and the conditions in their home countries that drive them to such desperate measures) is morally unacceptable, but disagreeing on solutions to these problems?

  • trellis smith

    I don’t believe I said the status quo was ever acceptable, I am emphasizing that I don’t believe that the bishops have taken into consideration all the factors to come up with a fair and just solution. As a result they engage in doublespeak align themsleves with postnational forces and dismissive of environmental concerns and the impact on the poor.

    • Julia Smucker

      I would call it catholicity rather than “postnational forces” (whatever that means), and based on the breadth of the bishops’ stance on various life issues, I don’t think it’s fair to assume that their support of immigrants entails any dismissiveness of concerns for the environment or the poor. It may indeed be helpful to draw connections among these concerns, but more so if you don’t assume apathy on the bishops’ part.

  • trellis smith

    I am pretty sure Archbisop Gomez solutions and that of the majority of the American people are so dissimilar that each perceptions of the common good may diverge But for the most part the criteria you listed could be effectively remedied by implementing the enforcement measures I listed.