The Alabama Experiment
A new state immigration law in Alabama, perhaps the toughest in the nation, empowers police to check the immigration status of people they stop or arrest, adds new pressure on employers to verify worker residency and requires schools to filter out children of undocumented residents. Other states have passed similarly stringent laws, and still more are poised to join the fray, making a riot of U.S. immigration policy. The chief blame must fall on Congress, which has consistently failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform that might begin to make sense of America’s contradictory relationship with its vast undocumented workforce.
Major components of the Alabama law have already been suspended after being challenged by the U.S. Department of Justice. Whatever the outcome in the courts, a backlash against the law quickly emerged, not from soft-hearted liberals but from hard-headed employers in Alabama’s agriculture, construction and restaurant industries. Their position is neither red nor blue but green, as in cash, something they fear they will be losing now that Alabama’s low-paid workforce has begun a hurried exodus from newly hostile territory. Even properly documented workers are leaving, worried about hassles with police and state and school district bureaucrats. The abrupt departures have left crops rotting in the fields, shingles unhammered and restaurants scrambling for replacements. For proponents of the law, this is all to the good: employers will be forced to seek out native-born citizens and legal residents to replace the departed workers.
Alabama has begun a real-world sociological experiment that is fraught with peril. Are there some back-breaking jobs that native-born workers simply will not take, and are there wage hikes for unskilled work that U.S. employers simply will not make? Testing these questions could prove devastating to Alabama’s economy.
A Free Catholic Press?
The six editors of Zenit, a private Catholic information service based in Rome, resigned over the issue of independence, according to a report by Catholic News Service on Oct. 11. They objected to the growing control of Zenit by the Legionaries of Christ, a major financial backer, and cited the spirit of Zenit: to serve the universal church, not one religious congregation. The editors said they preferred to resign rather than betray their principles. This followed the forced resignation of Jesús Colina, who founded Zenit in 1997. Mr. Colina stated that a major issue was the Legionaries’ lack of transparency over finances and the sexual scandals surrounding their founder, Marcial Maciel.
Speaking for the Legionaries, Andreas Schoggl, L.C., said that Mr. Colina’s resignation did not indicate a change of policy but that “the stress on journalistic independence…might have induced people to think that Zenit was just a private initiative of Catholic journalists.” Quite clearly, Zenit is now just a mouthpiece for the Legionaries.
Journalists struggle to maintain the credibility that comes from the pursuit of objectivity. Which stories appear and how they are weighted are subjective decisions, of course. Still, writers and editors—even in Catholic journalism—must work independently of their publishers’ business and public relations agendas.
When the U.S. bishops’ Office of Migration and Refugee Services learned that it had been denied a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, some expressed worry that the lack of funds would negatively affect those served by the organization. But another concern also surfaced: fear of anti-Catholic bias in the White House. A post on the bishops’ Media Blog argued that the H.H.S. was abiding by “the ABC Rule, Anybody But Catholics” and cited the bishops’ stance against abortion, sterilization and artificial contraception as the reason.
The lack of this grant may disrupt services while the cases at the bishops’ migration office are shifted to new agencies, and this is unfortunate. But to describe the move as anti-Catholic is to get caught up in an argument that benefits no one. Two-thirds of the migration office subcontractors were non-Catholic organizations, so Catholic groups are not the only ones to suffer the loss of funding.
It is discouraging that the administration caved in to the American Civil Liberties Union on reproductive issues. But claims of anti-Catholic bias ignore government funding for other Catholic entities and other good-faith efforts by this administration to establish cordial working relations. On Oct. 14 approximately 160 leaders from Catholic Charities USA met with White House officials in a daylong meeting to discuss the economy, human services, housing and immigration. In a press release, Jon Carson, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, called Catholic Charities “an incredible network of social service organizations” and added that he was looking forward to working “towards our shared goals.” Still, a positive word from Mr. Carson is no substitute for collaborative efforts to serve those in need.