Your Word on Illegal Immigration

If you’ve ever been to a bar in Spain or Italy on game day you’ll know what I mean. The local team is always right — always. That’s just the way it is. Everyone agrees that referees are for the most part corrupt; there are a few who stand out for their fairness. When they, the fair ones, call the shots, the local team seems to prevail. That’s justice, plain and simple. Players’ pictures deck the bar’s walls, but there’s always redecorating going on. This town’s ex-local heroes, who now play in a different jersey for a different team, well, the locals now admit they were never any good anyway. And they take the posters down. Besides, they’re glad they left and, no, they’re not bitter.

I can understand the feelings. I’m a sportsman, an impartial one, of course. When the Cleveland Browns play the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Browns are always the better team. Don’t talk to me about records or championship trophies or any other insignificant statistic. Anyone with half a brain knows the Browns are victims of bad luck, bad refs, and one greedy past owner who will remain unnamed. We’re still the best. Go dawgs!

Your responses to my “Open Letter to Illegal Mexican Immigrants” have reinforced my growing belief that politics, and the immigration debate in particular, is like a smoke-filled bar in Spain or Italy on game day. I don’t know if it’s the political smoke and mirrors that inspires such “impartiality,” or if we just like cheering for a team that can do no wrong. Some of your notes have made me think and rethink, and even change my mind. And I thank you for that! Changing our mind when we are wrong is not weakness. I think, in fact, it is wisdom and strength. But all of your responses, even the mean ones, have made me grateful to be an American in these exciting times. For all the pain democracy brings, it’s still the best system around. Let’s not forget it, even when we disagree.

I want to post some of your questions and remarks here below. I’ve chosen them, as always, either because they represent a large number of responders or most commonly, because they add something to our dialogue. My responses bring out some salient elements of the immigration debate that I didn’t bring up in the last blog entry.


Dear Fr. Jonathan

You write, "We are a nation of laws, but laws mean nothing when they are unjust, unfair, or unrealistic." You should have added that laws mean nothing when they are not enforced.

— RH, Pine, AZ

RESPONSE: RH, you are right. I should have added what you suggest. My point was twofold. First, laws are only good in as much as they are just. To simply say, “We are a nation of laws” (a phrase we have heard to the point of nausea) is overly simplistic. Dictatorships have many laws, but not all good. In my opinion, House Bill 4437 is not a good law because it provides no lasting solution to the serious problem of illegality and human rights abuses. Secondly, laws must be realistic — meaning they need to be workable. We have lots of laws on the books already, but for various reasons, they are not workable, primarily because the government and business owners have other interests. But you are right, I think adding the bit about lack of enforcement would have been a clear way to express the point.

Dear Father Jonathan,

I live very close to the Mexican border (for the last 10 years) and YOU my friend have spoken the truth! Nothing more to add!

— Caroline

RESPONSE: Thanks for the encouragement, Caroline. Not all readers agreed with you, but perhaps they considered my letter to the illegals a full treatise on immigration reform. That’s not what it was, and it sounds like you picked that up nicely. It’s OK to have a home team in politics, as long as people (humanity) are at the center of our decision making. When the home team messes up, we speak up, that’s all. On a side note, Caroline, I’ve noticed that women have an easier time than men discovering nuances in this issue in particular. Too much smoke. Sorry guys.

Father Jonathan,

Firstly, I want to say thank you for the articles you write, I do not always agree but they make a person think, they are written in such a way that they help me forget my partisanship and help me in regaining focus and that is a very good thing. With that being said... After reading your article on the illegal immigrant story I can’t help but feel that you are missing one key point. Many, not all, but many of the Mexicans who are in the U.S. illegally do not want to be citizens, they believe that we are the ones who stole their land (the Southwest) and as such, feel completely justified in snubbing us. They do not feel the need, and indeed have no need, to learn English. They form communities that they can get around in without ever speaking a lick of English.

— Eric

RESPONSE: How true it is. Many Mexicans that cross the border, have no interest in becoming Americans, because they don’t plan to stay. And quite honestly, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, if, and only if, we can work out a system that makes their short-term stay legal. The reason our government (both Democrat and Republican administrations) have turned a blind eye on illegal immigration is the pervading belief that part-time labor is good for the economy. Yes, it has its downsides, including the lowering of salaries in some sectors, but let’s not be naïve. If the government wanted to stop illegal crossing, it could. President Bush’s plan for temporary workers recognizes the transient nature of Mexican immigration. We’ll see if it passes and if it works.

Father Jonathan,

Should we just open our borders to anyone and everyone? I understand about "give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses," but we can't take care of all the people we already have in the U.S.

— Scott

RESPONSE: Scott, take a deep breath here. As I’ve explained in past blogs, a host country has a responsibility to control immigration levels at sustainable levels. This maintenance requires taking into account security and economic concerns. Nobody that I know is advocating for open borders. If Mexicans, knowing jobs are waiting for them, are willing to risk their lives in the desert instead of waiting in line for visas, something is wrong with our system. We need to facilitate safe and efficient legal immigration that corresponds to the economic demands and security issues.

Father Jonathan,

How come you aren't in the U.S. Senate? We need more straight talk like this. My grandfather came to this country from Italy. That was in 1884. He embraced the American flag, cried when he saw the Statue of Liberty. He learned to speak our native tongue, and melted into the great American society. He proclaimed, when I was old enough to understand, that he was no longer an Italian, but an American.

— Sharon and Don

RESPONSE: Sharon and Don, I will never go into politics and I will avoid partisan affiliation. But I will continue to do my little part to communicate the ethical principles that have made our country great. I hope politicians listen. And I hope you all correct me when I’m wrong. Your letter brings up a good point: why don’t illegal Mexicans wave American flags? Because they are illegal — it’s as simple as that. Why are they here? Because we have offered them work. That too is simple. If we don’t fix the system, we will end up with a disgruntled Hispanic population bigger than our own. What would that look like? Not good. The best way to win their hearts and minds is to develop fair and just policy that respects the contribution they bring while giving the hard workers among them the possibility to earn legal status in a timely manner.

Hey Father,

My name is Luis, I'm one of millions of illegal immigrants living in the United States. You know what? I'm glad there are people like you in this country, and I wanted to thank you for all what you do for all of us.

— Luis

RESPONSE: Luis, thanks for putting a face to this issue, and for adding to the unity of the heart. Congratulations on your English! You are probably a very hard worker. I hope we can figure out a system to bring you back in legal fashion. I will pray for your family.

(Below is an e-mail I received this morning, followed by my response, and then a follow-up response by the sender. I wanted you to see what a little kindness does. I don’t always muster up the courage to be humble, but when I do, when we do, the best in people comes out.)

Father Jonathan,

Folks like you are exactly the reasons why most of us Catholics have abandoned the Church. Not only are you out of touch with the original concepts of the Church, but you can't resist sticking your nose into every political issue, as long as they are anti-American.

I will never, I repeat, never accept foreign revolutionaries that have the gall to call me Nazi, the invader here, and threaten to rob me and my loved ones of the heritage my ancestors who fought so hard to come here by legal means. Yes, and Latin too, and dope dealing, robbing, people who openly flaunt their criminality will not get my respect, nor will any of their supporters in Congress get our votes, or any further financial support from my kind. This kind of scum is exactly why many of us left these countries, and the last thing we'll ever tolerate is them bringing their hate and obvious disrespect and lack of morals in after us. These people are robbing me and mine of a secure future, our children of the best odds of education and jobs. It will be a cold day in hell before you, or any corrupt politician will ever force many of us to like or want them here. What you and your kind are doing is planting the seeds of revolution and civil war in this nation, and I seriously doubt that has anything to do with God's work.

They are an infestation that needs to be eradicated like any other disease that gets out of hand. They do not come here to be Americans and assimilate, but rather to take and hate, and there are millions of Americans here just waiting with loaded firearms and large stocks of ammo for the day the government proves they can no longer deal with this issue, or the minute they openly revolt.

Here's a thought priest, traitors like you are really starting to get on my nerves, so why don't you and your kind do the U.S. a favor and take your silly anti-American rear ends down to Mexico since you love this human scum so much? Let's see how long they'll let you live down there as an Illegal.

— Manuel

RESPONSE: Manuel, thanks for your note and for taking the time to write. You and I both agree illegal immigration is bad. Bad for Americans and bad for Mexicans. That has to be changed. The question is how to do this — that's what we are working on. It's not as easy as just rounding them up and sending them home. Everybody knows that, so we now have to work together to come up with a realistic solution. You'll see what I mean on today's blog. God bless, Father Jonathan

MANUEL’S RESPONSE TO ME: Hmmm, you sure don't get riled easily, do you? lol. Good answer, Father. OK, I can respect that. I will start reading your blog, and now that I think I'm beginning to see your true colors in all this, I'm sure I can find my way to being a bit more civilized about it all.

Thank you for responding, and may the good Lord bless you too.

'Sempre' —Manuel

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