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The EditorsMay 24, 2010

The state law passed last month in Arizona has pushed immigration reform once again onto the nation’s front burner. The law makes illegal immigration a state crime, as well as a violation of federal law, and allows police to request proof of citizenship from anyone they reasonably suspect of being an illegal immigrant. While the front burner is where immigration policy ought to be, Congress is unlikely to pass an immigration reform bill this election year. Much of the electorate is still reeling from effects of the recession, which has put it in a contrarian, anti-immigrant state of mind.

A week after the Arizona bill was signed, however, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York and several other Democrats introduced a “framework on immigration reform” in preparation for what may soon become a bill. The framework is both timely and important. It also happens to be the sole comprehensive proposal on this issue, and it addresses the thorniest question of the immigration policy debate: What should be done about the 12 million illegal immigrants now living in the United States? Most are from Mexico, and many are members of families that include U.S. citizens or legal immigrants, a fact that has made compliance with current immigration policy destructive of family life. Immigration reform must remedy that situation.

The 26-page framework, “Real Enforcement with Practical Answers for Immigration Reform” (known as Repair), has four components: 1) enforcement and internal security; 2) a new biometric, “fraud-proof” Social Security card for all U.S. workers; 3) a process for admitting temporary workers; and 4) a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Enforcement would include tighter border controls and a requirement that all visitors to the United States provide biometric information by which the government can track visa overstays. Overstays account for some 40 percent of all illegal immigration.

The proposed path to citizenship is long and difficult. To become a “lawful prospective immigrant” requires registration, fingerprinting, a background check and payment of fines for having broken the law. Step two, “lawful permanent residency,” requires eight more years of residence, a crime-free record, an application for a green card, proficiency in English, the filing of tax returns and payment of back taxes.

Other provisions pertain to the status of spouses and children, relatives and same-sex partners; workers in agriculture and the dairy industry; students with advanced degrees; and professional work visas. The framework also includes the Dream Act, which makes the children of illegal immigrants who have graduated from a U.S. high school or served honorably in the military eligible for citizenship.

The plan was originally prepared by Senator Schumer and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican. The two co-introduced the framework in an article on the op-ed page of The Washington Post on March 19, but Senator Graham pulled out later. The proposal ought to have bipartisan appeal, and eventually it may.

So far, however, opponents have balked. Some have called for “border patrols first,” an enforcement-only approach that has been tried with little success, despite the billions of tax dollars spent. That strategy would leave 12 million immigrants in the shadows, and the employers who need immigrant workers would continue to depend on a supply of illegal laborers.

A comprehensive approach—to enforcement, lawful assimilation of undocumented residents and employment of immigrants—is imperative. The biometric identification card raises privacy concerns, but it is a tracking tool and should not trump the main issues in formulating a reform bill.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has long promoted a comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform bill. With some reservations, Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Migration, has called the framework “an important first step” and welcomed its “general direction,” which includes “the legalization of the undocumented and improvements to our employment and family-based immigration systems.”

Arizona has launched the discussion. Now Congress must act. Yet legislators cannot shoulder this load alone, nor should they. Latinos themselves must press both parties to think long-term and act in the national interest. Immigration reform will also require strong presidential leadership. Catholic leaders will be needed to help shape the national debate. After all, most of the immigrants in question are Catholics. The voters, too, especially Catholics, ought to consider their own immigrant beginnings, the church’s social teaching and the biblical injunctions to welcome the stranger. That perspective could promote a policy that is generous or, at the very least, fair and forward-looking.

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14 years 2 months ago
The current Mexican migration is the result of political and economic conditions in Mexico. This is not a matter of welcoming the stranger; the United States is fighting for its sovereignty in the face of the equivalent of an invasion. We, as a nation, have to right to determine our immigration policies. And these poicies should be based upon the welfare of our nation, including its economic security.

Compassion? Certainly. But first let us return to the immigration limits that governed our nation for most of the past century: 300,000, equally divided amongst people from around the world. My status as the grandson of an immigrant is irrelevant and a baseless appeal to emotion.

Richard D
Stevens Point, WI
James Richard
14 years 2 months ago

What is happening in Arizona is the same as what happened in Kosovo, when 400,000 illegal Albanians crossed into Kosovo. Many were involved with the KLA's drug running operations at the time. As we know, when the Serbs tried to send the illegals back to Albania, as the Kosovo Serbs were being victimized by the criminal elements, the UN reacted and called it ethnic cleansing and we saw the NATO bomb Yugoslavia to smithereens, where tens of thousands died.

Arizona is going to end up in the similar situation. The illegals, many who are part of the drug cartel raising havoc in Mexico, are taking over parts of the state bringing the standard of living down to that of those south of the border. Tuscon has the highest number of murders and kidnappings, commited by illegals.

Eventually, illegals are going to seek to have the Southwest corner of the United States as an independent nation of their own. In fact, there are already people organizing to make this happen.

What will the US do then?  Ethnically cleanse Arizona, as the Serbs tried to do in Kosovo?

Joy Peterson
14 years 2 months ago
  • According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, violent crimes in Arizona fell from 512 per 100,000 people in 2005 to 447 per 100,000 people in 2008, the last year for which data is available.
  • Although the unauthorized immigrant population doubled to about 12 million from 1994 to 2004, data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that the violent crime rate in the United States declined by 35.1 percent during this time and the property crime rate fell by 25.0 percent.

This data comes from the Immigration Policy Center.  It is critical that we have the facts not just the perceptions.

James Collins
14 years 2 months ago

A debate on immigration reform is needed and welcome. The first point of the framework introduced is to secure the borders. This was proposed before when all then illegal immigrants were given citizenship. It didn't work. Because of the political ramifications no one in congress, Democrat or Republican, will enforce the borders. Before there is going to be any meaningful concensus achieved there must be agreement on how the borders will be made secure in the future. 

Many in this debate will be for an even more open border with Mexico than it is now. This has created a huge imbalance in illegal immigrants in favor of Mexicans. Many see this as very unfair to other potential ethnic immigrants who must comply with quotas and navigate the very long and arduous legal process.

Others in this debate will excorcurate Arizona for their new law which essentially just gives the state the right to enforce a federal law which the federal government will not do. Compassion for the illegals yes but also compassion for the people of Arizona who have borne a very dangerous and costly burden while all of us dodge the issue.

14 years 2 months ago

America has 12 million illegal immigrants, because illegal immigrants and Americans do not obey American laws.  Illegal immigrants disregard American laws, because, like prior immigrants, they are seeking a better life for themselves and their children.  Americans disregard the laws, mostly, for economic reasons, for political reasons, or they are just too ignorant or lazy to obey them.

America’s irresponsibility and failure to enforce the 1986 immigration laws has allowed the 12 million illegal immigrants to cross the border, to find jobs, and to raise their families in the United States.  We now have a moral problem


an immigration problem.  Those 12 million illegal immigrants are human beings with families.  To deport them would ruin both their lives and the American economy.

Like it or not, we will have to allow those illegal immigrants who have not committed violent crimes or committed extensive theft or fraud to remain in the United States.  In a sense, we will have to reset the clock back to 1986, grant amnesty, but this time the immigration and employment laws must be enforced.

For humane reasons we must emphasize the employment laws.  Does anyone propose that we kill foreigners who try to cross the border illegally?  Should every person be expected to carry proof of citizenship at all time?  Those that despair most about illegal immigration also seem to favor minimalist governance and regulations.  Unfortunately, those are incompatible concepts.  For starters, every worker or contractor should have a social security card – no social security card, no job.  Employee’s card numbers would have to be reported to the social security administration, and everyone would be required to pay social security and Medicare.  If an employer (of a business or an individual) does not require a social security card of its employees, then they will be subject to stiff fines and, in egregious cases, imprisonment.  If a worker uses a forged social security card, the fraud should be detected by the social security administration, and the defrauder will be subject to deportation by federal or federally-deputized, state officials. 

The previous suggestion is a start; surely, other regulations must be put in place.  I recommend a recent article by Reuben Navarrette, Jr. regarding the irresponsibility of Americans pertaining to immigration at  http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20060507/news_lz1e7navarre.html.

David Smith
14 years 2 months ago

It's obvious from the tenor of most of the comments here and elsewhere that presidential leadership on this issue will require of Obama the courage to buck large segments of the country, including large segments of his own party.  One wonders whether the President, consummate politician that he is, will have the stomach for it.  Politicians, especially professional ones like Obama, aren't known for acting counter to their own interests.

Something that should be mentioned in connection with what's happened in Arizona is that - at least as I understand it - the new law there makes a criminal of anyone helping an "illegal immigrant" in any way.  That means that any clergyman and any religious who doesn't refuse to have anything to do with "illegals" will be breaking the law and could, I imagine, end up in prison.

Also, "living in the shadows" is putting it euphemistically.  Twelve million people in America live daily under the threat of being arrested, jailed, and deported.  Just leaving one's house is an act of courage.  Families are being broken up, children are being torn from their families.  That's not an exaggeration.  Twelve million people are being terrorized by the national police, and a great many American citizens think that's just fine.

I'm unaware of what the "reservations" of the bishops' Committee on Migration to the Schumer "framework" may be, but I imagine one of them might be that it's too heavy on control and very light on humanitarian considerations.  This country has a bad track record on welcoming immigrants, and this time around things seem about as nasty as ever.

14 years 2 months ago

Illegal immigration is costing the US taxpayer, somewhere in the vicinity of $338 billion a year in healthcare, HHS programs, schools and jailing those that commit crimes (approx 15% of the US prison population are illegal immigrants). The economic strain is something that cannot be born anymore.

Poor immigration policy decisions by the Clinton, G.W. Bush and Obama administrations are coming home to roost. The choice is now economic health of 12 million people who did not respect the law versus the economic health of almost a 500 million legal residents and legal immigrants.

It should be kept in mind fully up front that illegal immigrants are STEALING. Not just jobs, but services that are for AMERICAN CITIZENS and LEGAL RESIDENT ALIENS. Everyone gets their knickers in a knot about how shipping those who entered illegally back to Mexico would be breaking up their families, etc. etc. Hello, they made a choice to break the law and steal from everyone and now don't want to suffer the consequences of that choice.

14 years 2 months ago
Kudos to Bishop John Wester and to the bishops who are loudly pleading for a human, comprehensive federal immigration reform.

Some twelve to twenty million undocumented immigrants are today living in the United States. Deporting them, however, would create many serious human and practical problems: many children would be left without a father or without a mother; our agricultural system would tragically and suddenly be deprived of thousands of needed workers; American citizens will have to take their places washing dishes, cleaning hotel rooms, picking artichokes, etc.

All undocumented immigrants are at fault for having crossed our borders illegally, for having overstayed their visas, or for permitting American employers to get rich by hiring them as illegal workers.

Our federal employees are at fault for neglecting to properly control national borders; for neglecting to see that legal immigrants with temporary working papers actually leave when their permits expire; but, especially, for failing to arrest the thousands of employers who personally profit from illegal and very cheap, immigrant labor.

Since both undocumented immigrants and federal employees are at fault, a sensible compromise is required, a wise legal solution, also acknowledging that it was immigration (yes, both legal and illegal...) that really built our nation. We, or our parents, or our grandparents are all immigrants. It was Ronald Reagan who in 1986 tried to meet a similar problem with an American type of quasi-amnesty.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), signed by President Reagan on November 6, 1986 was an Act of Congress which tried to reform United States immigration law, and granted amnesty to certain illegal immigrants who entered the United States before January 1, 1982 and had resided there continuously.

As Reagan took office, the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy, chaired by Notre Dame President Theodore Hesburgh, reported with recommendations for sweeping policy changes. Editorials in the nation's major newspapers supported these proposals. “Our nation is a nation of immigrants, which will always welcome more people to our shores,” was Reagan’s repeated conviction.
Perhaps what is needed is a good review of what President Reagan was trying to do in the ‘80s, with carefully updated refinements and with a number of necessary corrections.

But like Ronald Reagan, we must remember what America stands for. Engraved in the pillar supporting the Statue of Liberty is the poem by Emma Lazarus titled “The New Colossus.” We have all read it, but it is good to read it again:


Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
with conquering limbs astride from land to land;
here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Thomas Farrelly
14 years 2 months ago

I would like to make two points in response to Larry Lorenzoni:

1.The Act that President Reagan signed was an utter failure.  The amnesty it included simply invited millions more to immigrate here illegally, and no administration made any serious attempt to control the border.

2.The Emma Lazarus poem represents the feelings of one woman at a particular point in our history.  It is not part of the US Constitution, nor does it obligate anyone to accept it as valid in the circumstances of 2010.  It is time to put it to rest and stop pretending it justifies an influx of illegal aliens.

The US cannot accommodate the billions of people in the world who would like to live here.  We have serious problems in this country, a growing underclass, and importing the impoverished castoffs of  dysfunctional and corrupt societies will only aggravate the problems and enlarge the underclass.

Thomas Farrelly
14 years 2 months ago

It is assumed by America and other left liberal parties that "comprehensive reform" includes amnesty, or some more euphemistic way of legalizing the illegal.  Of course comprehensive reform need not involve any such thing.  The only certain result of amnesty, by whatever name you call it, is to bring in another wave of Mexicans in the well justified belief that sometime in the future there will be a third amnesty.

True reform would start with the premise that the purpose of immigration is to provide both short-term and long-term benefit to the United States.  It should be limited to a fairly small number of people who have valuable skills and education, and are unlikely to place new burdens on our schools, hospitals, social services, and the criminal justice system, and who have the habits and beliefs that make for ready assimilation.

Such reform would frustrate the interests of the Democratic Party in recruiting new members, and of the Bishops in replenishing the ranks as educated Catholics become alienated from the Church as it is now governed.  It would start us on the way to a possible uplifting of our unfortunately large underclass of the poorly educated, economically desperate, and criminally inclined.

Tom Maher
14 years 2 months ago
I have to agree with Thomas Farrelly and Penny Blake.

It is time to change everyone's expectations that the U.S. border with Mexico will always be wide-opne and unsecured.

The United States has a hugh unsecured border problem with Mexico. Mexican border security is a ever-orsening problem. The border states to Mexico are subject to a growing crime wave of murders and mayhem that can not be dismissed. The volumne of illegal immigrants entering the United States is wildly out of control. Open borders with Mexico is not acceptable to most Americans. Our borders with Mexico must be secured without furhter delay or excuse.

Catholics should not encourage or condone illegal immigration into the United States by anyone for any reason. United States laws must be respected by everyone, but especially by the Catholic church as a moral example.
Carey McIntyre
14 years 2 months ago
Illegal immigration is a problem. I will not argue this point.

Many of the posts above seem to focus solely upon ending illegal immigration, or pointing out the "crimes" committed by illegal immigrants, and not focus on making the immigration process more equitable/fair.

At the end of the day we should reflect upon the Church's teaching and not simply our own feelings and statistics.

CCC 2241
"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."

Please try not to make blanket statements concerning what Catholics should and should not do. CCC 2242, which follows right after the CCC's teaching on immigration, informs us that as Catholics we are "obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel."
Julie Paavola
14 years 2 months ago

Thank you to Carey McIntyre for a Catholic, compassionate response.

Over the weekend, May 14-16, I conducted an Ignatian retreat with a team of Jesuits and laypeople. The retreat was in Spanish with and we had 29 participants from Southern California and Washington State. At the retreat, I was I was offering the words of the gospel-they were living the gospel.

The faith I witnessed in the retreatants, fellow Catholic brothers and sisters who are faced with unemplyment, illness, lack of medical care, and now the terror that thier families will be separated at any moment-was overwhelming. Their treatment in this beautiful country, the "home of the free and the brave"? It is not simply heart breaking, but morally wrong. We have fotten, as Americans, to give thanks to God and see our own life history as a gift, a blessing and not something we are entitled to just because we were born in the United States. The love of the Father goes above the "rights and responsiblities" of civil society to remember we all belong to a Homeland in the Reign of God. Our first play book is the gospel. Our consititution the very Heart of the Lord.

I dare anyone to become open to sharing the lives of the Hispanic people who live in our communities. Come into contact with our Hispanic brothers and sisters, see how they are the ones who most deserve our love, and many of them are poor, those Jesus told us to love with preferential tenderness...

God is asking us as Catholics in this country to change our behavior towards these brothers and sisters. Are we listening?


Thomas Farrelly
14 years 2 months ago

Please, please, stop writing as if you're the authentic voice of God.

Tom Maher
14 years 2 months ago
It is evident from the above comments that many people beleive the Catholic church actually encourages breaking United States laws when it comes to immigration. Apparently some have even created a their own theology of open borders based on their own personal whimes and sympathies.

It is a very unfortunate abd regrettable that people precieve the Catholic church and its teachings as encouraging and justifyiing illegal immigration. This mistaken belief is certain to be very destructive of both the church and civil order. Powerful civil forces are beginning to come into play on immigration. It would be very unfortunate that the Catholic church to be identified with lawlessness. mayhem snd the chaos of open borders. The church needs to be part of a sane solution of societies problems not a multipier of horrors. The church needs to distance itself from the open-border, open-immigration mania that society does not have the resources or will to satisfy.
Thomas Farrelly
14 years 2 months ago

The Church is definitely identified with lawlessness, mayhem, and the chaos of open borders because of the content of so many statements from Bishops and other men and women of the Church.  The Bishops always say that they are opposed to illegal immigration,  but then go on to say that the remedy is to make such immigration legal.  They oppose any effective measures to stop illegal immigration, and urge a "reform" which includes amnesty.   Such doubletalk fools nobody.

Catholic Relief Services was actually providing potential illegal immigrants in Mexican border towns with advice and supplies as to how to make the illegal border crossing successfully.  The people involved should be prosecuted.



Christopher Kuczynski
14 years 2 months ago
Part of every plan I've heard for putting our undocumented brothers and sisters on a path to citizenship has required the payment of fines and/or back taxes. I understand why many politicians on both sides of the aisle feel that such a requirement is necessary to make comprehensive immigration reform pallitable. But I wonder how many people will continue to remain in the shadows in the face of a financial burden they simply cannot bear.

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