On the Corner

What kind of America do you want?

by Robert Docter, Editor-In-Chief – 

Jesus spoke these words to his disciples the night before his arrest, trial, and crucifixion:

Feed the hungry!
Give drink to the thirsty!
House the homeless!
Clothe the cold and shivering!
Visit the sick and imprisoned!

I tell you the truth …
Whenever you failed to do one of these things
to someone being overlooked or ignored,
that was me—you failed to do it to me!
Matthew 25

About these words, William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army accepted and amplified this challenge when in his final public speech he said:

“While women weep—I’ll fight … while little children go hungry, as they do now—I’ll fight … while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now—I’ll fight … while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight – I’ll fight to the very end!”

Here’s something to fight about.

A piece of legislation titled “H.R. 4337: Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act” passed the U.S. House of Representatives in the closing sessions of December 2005. It is now being considered by the Senate.

Title II of the legislation—“Combating Alien Smuggling and Illegal Entry and Presence”—presents some very serious difficulties for those who seek to follow the commands of Jesus. Section 201 (a) (3) includes aiding or counseling someone in disregard of that person’s immigration status as an “aggravated felony.” It’s my understanding that most of the Army’s social programs do not regard the immigration status of those in need before them. Inasmuch as this Army of Salvation is committed to helping hurting, hungry, homeless humans, that person’s immigration status is not regarded as an important factor in the process. We disregard immigration status.

Section 202 talks about “Alien Smuggling and Related Offenses. It amends the Immigration and Nationality Act with some harsh language. For instance, if you counsel clients in a shelter, feed hungry people, administer a residential program that might possibly house an undocumented alien, or transport such people to church, you are clearly a smuggler guilty of a criminal offense if, in disregard of the individual’s immigration status, one of the persons assisted, counseled, housed or transported turned out to be undocumented. The act stipulates the penalty for this “crime” is up to five years in prison and forfeiture of property.

By the way—Section 202 (e) (1) states any finding by an immigration officer is, and of itself, prima facie evidence that you have smuggled such a person. The person who arrests you will be the state or local police. They have authority to stop, question, demand papers and detain people who can’t prove they have legal status. By the way—do you carry those kinds of papers? I don’t.

The act makes “presence” in the United States without proof of valid status a criminal act. Currently, this is a civil violation heard under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court of Appeals. Under H.R. 4337 it will be heard by immigration judges or officers.

The criminalization of organizations and individuals who assist undocumented immigrants flies in the face of the commands of Jesus to aid, assist, counsel, house the least among us.

Comments by others.
Jack Kemp, former Vice President in the George H. W. Bush administration, writing in the Washington Times urged his “fellow Republicans to oppose such ill-advised anti-immigrant policies and not support an immigration movement that is politically unwise and fundamentally at odds with the best tradition and spirit of our nation and our party.”

He likened the legislation to California Proposition 187, which he labeled “a Draconian effort” to drive undocumented aliens out of the country by cutting off all public services including education, welfare, other social services and medical care. “The effect” Kemp wrote, “was to drastically alienate Hispanic voters in California from the Republican Party.

Cardinal Roger Mahoney, speaking at an Ash Wednesday Mass, directed his priests and social workers to defy this law if it is approved by the Senate.

Andrew Grove, a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust and former Chairman of the Intel Corporation, stated in the Wall Street Journal that the legislation “could change the nature of society that I have seen firsthand as a Jewish child hiding from Nazis in Hungary.” He asked a fundamental question: “What kind of country do we want?”

The Los Angeles Times, in an editorial, stated: “Congratulations to Cardinal Roger M. Mahoney, who not only has been saying the right things about illegal immigrants but also has been reinforcing the right of religious leaders to speak out on the moral ramifications of political issues.”

What should we do?
First, speak out on this matter as a moral issue. Second, continue the existing policies of not requiring immigration information from anyone. Third, offer the McCain/Kennedy legislation as a viable alternative to the obvious need for immigration reform.

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