Thursday, October 06, 2005


From the latest issue of
Catholic Voice:

We were there to see the needs of immigrants, young adults in particular, by participating in BAE (Border Awareness Experience), a program run by Annunciation House, founded in 1978 by a group of young adults from El Paso who had decided to live in community and in solidarity with the poor, in order to experience the Gospel more deeply.Their primary service is welcoming undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America and providing short-term food and shelter for them until they figure out their next step in their journey toward employment and/or reuniting with family in other cities or states.

Notice the article doesn’t say anything about helping these “undocumented immigrants” return safely back to their home countries. In fact, it’s a given that these immigrants will stay here in the U.S.

We are asking ourselves how to reach out and continue to listen to the marginalized of our society. Do we choose to ignore the faces such as Jorge’s, silent and hungry, or do we look them in the eye and share in their silence and confusion?

The article, as may be expected, is rife with "Catholic guilt." I'm guessing here, but I imagine it's Middle-class American Catholic guilt. Maybe even White (or Anglo) Middle-class American Catholic guilt.

Now don't get me wrong--the first eight years of my Catholic education were under the auspices of Irish Catholic sisters (from the Old Country, in fact) who firmly believed "a little bit of guilt never hurt anyone." I am familiar with guilt. I have, in fact, used guilt to coerce my children into behaving.

But am I supposed to feel guilty because the country I live in borders a country that is so much poorer?

Mexico is a country incredibly rich in natural resources, as well as human. Unfortunately, the political culture is one of greed and corruption. Where are the revenues going from Pemex, Mexico's state-owned petroleum monopoly? What about its mineral reserves? Its fisheries? Doesn't the country of Mexico have an obligation to their own people, much as the U.S. has to its own citizens?

And when U.S. companies open manufacturing plants in Mexico--the maquiladoras--U.S. Unions protested loudly that jobs were fleeing south because of lower wages and U.S. environmentalists claimed the factories would destroy the Mexican ecosystem because Mexico lacked the same regulatory protections the U.S. had.

But what does the influx of "undocumented immigrants" do to wages and the environment here in the U.S.? Why should a company go to the expense of building a new plant in Mexico when they can just hire the same workers here? And if these workers are mistreated, to whom will they complain? These same guilt-ridden Catholics?

In the height of absurdity, Senator Clinton wants to ensure that any "undocumented immigrants" who have suffered a loss because of Hurricane Katrina should be able to get aid, without fear of being re-patriated to their home country. (Deported is such an ugly word.)

The Government of Mexico seems to have abdicated its responsibility. A Catholic country, it suffers none of the guilt that Catholics in the U.S. share.

I do not want my brothers and sisters to starve physically, mentally, or spiritually. But I do not want to encourage them to become outlaws, either; to remain underground, ever fearful of the knock on the door. Why aren't there groups, Catholic or otherwise, reaching out across the border, trying to improve the conditions where the people live? So they won't have to risk their lives crossing rivers and deserts and they can stay with their families?

What Would Jesus Do?