Editor's note: Father Jonathan discusses the immigration debate Monday, March 27th at 4:05 p.m. ET on "Your World with Neil Cavuto."
Dear Mexicans living illegally in the United States:
Over the last few months I’ve been in touch with promoters of House Bill 4437, the legislative proposal, among others, to be taken up by the Senate this Tuesday that aims to crack down on undocumented workers like you. I’ve told lawmakers that their hopes to rectify the present system — a shameful one for you and for us — will not happen through a bill like this. It focuses on enforcement alone, while providing no realistic plan to deal with the 12 million illegal immigrants already on this side of the border.
I’ve reminded lawmakers of their responsibility to shun the seduction of political polarization. You may not be very familiar with our political structures, but we have a two-party system. It works quite well, but it has its limitations, and immigration reform is showcasing them like never before. To be a conservative on immigration has come to mean just “talking tough” and avoiding anything that could be perceived by constituents as giving in. To be a true liberal on immigration requires pretending border concerns are all hype and winking at a system of illegality.
But polarization is bad because it perverts sound judgment. It rejects the obvious, that when two sides are so wrong, compromise is not weakness. In fact, it is wisdom and strength.
I want you to know we Americans know the present system is a hypocritical one. Our visa procedures in Mexico are so slow and demanding that you prefer to risk your lives in the desert than wait in line. After all, your cousins have told you our talk is bigger than our stick. We promise you work if you survive the trip. And you don’t feel guilty. You know the most powerful country in the world could find you and send you back, but it doesn’t really want to. When local and federal agencies turn a blind eye to companies that employ you, they are telling you that what you do is not so bad. And you recognize the government’s inaction as tacit permission to stay and work.
This system is bad, and we’re working on it. But now my attention turns to you. We saw your Mexican flags wafting in the winds of Southern California this weekend — as hundreds of thousands took to the streets in protest of legislation that would make illegal crossing a felony, build a wall to keep you out, and criminalize Americans who help you once you’re here.
Friday you imposed a “thank a Mexican day” in Georgia. Tens of thousands of you chose to defy your bosses and take the day off. The boldest among you rallied on the steps of the Georgia Capitol and, of course, you brought your flags with you. Compatriots in Phoenix had their own Latin party — the red and green could not be missed.
And all these flags make me cringe — both for Americans and for you.
When you wave them, or wear them, you send a signal. But trust me. If you want compromise to the polarization I’ve described above, if you want a rectification of a hypocritical system, this is not the signal you want to send. You have to understand, we Americans are funny about flags. Do you remember the months after 9-11? We donned the stars and stripes on our houses, cars, trees, and lawns. In those months of horror, our penchant for red, white, and blue had nothing to do with ethnicity. And their ubiquitous presence meant much more than national pride. You see, my Mexican friends, the American flag is for us a symbol of national unity. Let me say that again — it’s a symbol of unity.
And unity is what we need. Unity of mind, and unity of heart. Oh, unity of mind, that reminds me. Learn English. When we see your placards and hear your chants, if we don’t understand them, we get mad. You know by now that we Americans aren’t so good for languages. We can’t roll our “R’s” and when we try, you laugh and we turn red — another “gringo” thing, I know. When we go south of the border, we sometimes forget to bring dictionaries and guide books, as if the whole world should speak our tongue. Tell your family members living in Mexico to test us. They should go ahead and speak to us in Spanish. Don’t let us forget we are visitors, guests in a foreign land. But when we are at home, make sure we know it. We don’t demand Oxford English. Just show us you are trying to be one with us. That’s part of unity of the mind, an important step for unity of the heart.
Here’s another hint for unity, this time all about the heart. Say “thank you,” over and over again. I know you have lots of reasons to complain, but you also have great motives for gratitude. Taking part in this status quo of immigration hypocrisy, means we often use you and abuse you. The temptation would be to do the same to us. When you get sick and go to the hospital, we take care of you, and that costs a lot of money. Not all Americans are rich, you know. When we see medical insurance skyrocketing, and city hospitals in bankruptcy, our attention and outrage turn on you. It’s the Mexicans! And to some degree, we are right. Illegal immigration puts a great burden on our social services. You don’t pay full taxes and you send your money home.
But our principles are even stronger than our anger. We are going to take care of you when you are in need. Thank God, it’s still part of the American way. But please, just say “thank you.” Let people know with an attitude of gratitude that you are visitors, guests with only tacit permission to work in a foreign land. It’s part of building unity of the heart.
The U.S. Senate has a choice to make this week. They can either play politics or be statesmen. They can either divide or unite. I’ll keep talking to them, and filling them in on what I think. Who knows, maybe they’ll listen.
But I’m talking to you, too, all Mexicans living illegally in the United States. The best way to protest the status quo is to wave the American flag, speak English, and say thank you. The first is a symbol of national unity, the second makes us feel at home, and the third, well, it’s an act of humility that will go along way to heal the heart.
God bless, Father Jonathan
P.S. And to American readers, are we willing to go beyond partisan lines and philosophy to support just and realistic legislation? We are a nation of laws, but laws mean nothing when they are unjust, unfair, or unrealistic. In light of our present reality of 12 million illegals, legislation that only punishes and doesn’t heal is legislation that will not work.
P.P.S. I would love to hear what you think? Write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Write to Father Jonathan at email@example.com.