US Catholic Faith in Real Life

War on the people without papers

Kevin Clarke | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Perhaps file this under "Be careful what you wish for."

Folks who get driven to red-faced fury by the presence among us—in slaughterhouses, restaurants, in lawn care, and domestic servitude—of migrants without legal papers may be able to find the silver-lining among all the economic bad news trooping across cable news tickers. Seems that for the first time in a decade the number of legal immigrants into the United States has outstripped the number of people crossing over illegally.

The Pew Hispanic Center reports that "inflows of unauthorized
immigrants averaged 800,000 a year from 2000 to 2004, but fell to
500,000 a year from 2005 to 2008 with a decreasing year-to-year trend."

By contrast, the inflow of legal permanent residents has been
relatively steady this decade at around 600,000 to 700,000 a year. Pew can't offer a hard estimate, but they believe the number of undocumented immigrants living in America may have actually declined last year, from 12.4 million in 2007 to 11.9 million.

 The New York Times reports: "The loss of low-wage jobs in the American economy, combined with intensified enforcement at the border and at workplaces across the country, had caused those who might be considering an illegal border crossing to think twice before risking what has become an increasingly dangerous journey."

The "intensified enforcement" mentioned above has attracted the attention of the U.S. Catholic bishops, who recently implored the Bush Administration to put a freeze on anymore ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) workplace raids. The USCCB argues that such round-ups have proved devastating to families of undocumented workers and serve little purpose but to terrorize this community and push it further into America's underground.

It appears that in the aftermath of the collapse of debate on comprehensive immigration reform last year, the only element of that proposed reform that persists, zombie-like, is the enforcement angle that had been used to try to sell comprehensive reform to conservatives. Last year ICE made 5,000 workplace raids, 10 times the 2005 number, rounding up undocmented workers but essentially leaving the people who employ them untouched. Children, some among them bonafide U.S. citizens, have been abruptly separated from arrested and/or deported parents with the predictable familial chaos
and mayhem ensuing.

Gabino Zavala, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, called the children left behind after ICE raids the “collateral damage in the war for who can be ‘toughest’ on the
immigration issue.”

The bishops can keep resorting to all that high falutin' talk about human dignity and family values, but how far is that likely to get them in the land of pulling yourself up by your personally responsible bootstraps? Now when folks have trouble finding someone to mow the backyard on the cheap . . . 

Let it not be said that I won't give the Jesuits their due: Here's America's take on this subject.