Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Immigrants vs. Illegal Immigrants

Why don't those who fight for Social Justice (always capitalized) realize there is a difference between a legal immigrant and an illegal immigrant?

Two recent articles in The Catholic Voice failed to see any difference.

The first one was a commentary, by Fr. Jesus Nieto-Ruiz. Titled It is time to change how we allocate this nation’s resources, Fr. Nieto-Ruiz relates the story of Maria:

"Maria came to church looking for assistance to fill out paperwork for child support because her husband had left her and her three young daughters, and she did not speak any English.

"During our conversation, she informed me that she was not documented. Her husband had physically abused her and threatened to call INS (now Homeland Security) if she called the police. He was only providing her with $400 a month."

Because Maria is not documented (i.e., she's here in the U.S. illegally), "it was difficult for her to get a job. And if she found one, she needed to place her 8-month-old daughter in daycare, which she couldn’t afford.

"She needed to get a restraining order on her abusive husband. And most pressing, she needed legal help to stop the sale of the home to avoid becoming homeless.
Maria was obviously distressed, but I couldn’t send her to get any help through county mental health services because they would not attend to her without a Social Security number."

Never once does Fr. Nieto-Ruiz state that if Maria had followed the rules in the first place, her troubles would be easier to resolve. She would have a Social Security number, her husband would not have threatened her with deportation, and her name would be on the title of her house and her husband would not be able to sell it without her consent.

Fr. Nieto-Ruiz also brings in Hurricane Katrina:

"After Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, we heard questions about the nation’s lack of quick response to the tremendous needs of evacuees and whether the slow response was because so many of the displaced were African Americans.

"What we should also be asking is how can we be at peace as a nation when we allowed 30 percent of the people in New Orleans to live below the poverty level. How can we continue to live with growing class inequalities? Inequality is not natural, nor inevitable; it is created very consciously by our social policy."

Besides the repeating the falsehood that the lack of quick response was racist, Fr. Nieto-Ruiz blames our society in general without examining why 30% of New Orleans residents were living "below the poverty level." How much is social structure, including residual racism? How much is lack of opportunity? How much is it lack of effort to move up the economic ladder on the part of those living below the poverty level? Education is like water to the proverbial horse: you can lead people to it, but you can't make them partake.

The same issue has another article: CCHD funds non-profit’s efforts to empower immigrants.
Only later in the article do you find out what this group means by "Empower":

"Since 2003, EBASE has been zeroing in on immigration rights, explained Evelyn Sanchez, workplace immigrant and civil rights organizer. Members participated in the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride Coalition, which brought community organizers and labor leaders from 12 cities to Washington, D.C. to advocate for immigration reform. The bus project was organized to counter the backlash against immigrants, which arose after 9-11, Sanchez said.

But the backlash continues, she said. Congress is attempting to pass the Real ID Act – legislation that would force states to create a federal identification card for immigrants traveling between states to verify their status.

The rhetoric claims the cards are for security purposes, but it will make it much more difficult for people to travel and to get drivers’ licenses,” said Sanchez. The proposal is also flawed because it doesn’t take into account such issues as legalization of undocumented workers, family reunification or workplace and civil rights issues, she said.

"In an effort to fight such anti-immigrant sentiment, EBASE opened its first annual Freedom Academy this fall to train new immigrants on effective community organizing and to provide them with the opportunity to participate in specific campaigns.

"The $30,000 CCHD grant will provide stipends for 23 immigrants to attend the classes. The students hail from Central America, Africa, Afghanistan, and Palestine and include physicians as well as farmers now living throughout the Bay Area. Each student receives $50 for each of the six four-hour sessions to cover the cost of gasoline, bridge tolls and bus fares. EBASE is also paying for interpreters who speak Farsi and Spanish, and for childcare."

Again, EBASE makes no distinction between legal vs. illegal immigrants. There is no concern about border security. It's all about immigration and only about immigration.

At the very end, there is perhaps the most telling paragraph:

"Mexican immigrants living in the United States send $13 billion dollars back to their relatives each year, said Sanchez. Fifteen percent of El Salvador’s gross national product consists of remittances from the U.S. “So immigrants are contributing to two economies.”

In other words, Mexico and El Salvador need immigrants, legal or not, in the U.S. to support their own economies. Rather than working with those governments to improve life there so people don't feel the need to risk their lives to come work in the States, we should recognize their important economic power.

But, if those immigrants are here illegally, they have broken the law. I'm sorry their lives back home are so miserable and they are so desperate they are willing to do anything to get to the U.S. But a look at France shows us what will happen if we ignore the rule of law.

Petition Sen. Feinstein to change Immigration Law. Argue for a completely open border with Mexico and abolishment of all immigration quotas. But obey the current law until it's changed. You are not doing anyone any favors by encouraging illegal immigrants to circumvent the law and continuing to break it.